Starting the Nebula Weekend Off, or Friday Begins on Wednesday
Wednesday I flew in and lucked out: Kate Baker, SFWA’s awesome Operations Director, and I arrived around the same time, so we shared a taxi in. That was an experience in and of itself — the driver driving on the shoulder of the road, more than once, while Tagore songs blasted us and we shouted conversation over the roar of the wind through the window I couldn’t roll up. We arrived at the Palmer House unscathed.
Thursday I spent the day in the SFWA board meeting. We have board meetings face to face twice a year as well as the ongoing session on the discussion boards and assorted video calls. The board meetings are a nice chance to talk out stuff quickly, so we covered a wide range of things. I have a certain impatience with meetings engrained from years in academia and the corporate world, but Kate Baker had arranged to have enough coffee and food there to sustain us, and there are definitely worse people to be stuck in a room all day with. 😉
Alinea and the Meal of a Lifetime
If you are not interested in food, I suggest skipping ahead to the next section.
I’d been told it would be like having dinner in a Jack Vance novel and aside from a general lack of IUON stones, this was pretty close.
That evening I went off to Alinea, along with Scott Edelman (the party organizer), Ellen Datlow, Barry Goldblatt, Sam Miller Jr. and Sheila Williams. I have never had a meal as beautifully composed and choreographed. Here are some pics. The overall meal was fourteen courses and took four hours, which passed with amazing speed.
Here are the pictures:
Here’s Scott’s account of the evening, with more details.
Back to Reality, Whoops There Goes Gravity
Wayne arrived late that evening. The next morning I headed off to programming and he went for his own Edelman adventure, accompanying Scott for doughnuts (it was National Doughnut Day). (Advice: always say yes if Scott asks you to eat with him.)
My first panel was SFWA Through the Years, along with past and current SFWA presidents Greg Bear, Michael Capobianco, Russell Davis, and Steven Gould. Mainly I just shut up and listened; the more of SFWA’s convoluted history I know, the better. 😉
At 2:30 PM I was on the Diversifying Your Income Stream, along with Eric Flint (who I had never met before but am a longtime fan of), Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Steven Gould. I mainly talked about Patreon and teaching; Eric and Steven also talked about e-publishing one’s backlist, selling film and game rights, and writing nonfiction. I was sorry to miss the What SFWA Can Do For You panel that was going on at the same time with Kate Baker, Lee Martindale, Sarah Pinsker, and Bud Sparhawk — any chance someone taped it?Chris Kluwe, one of our special guests, arrived in time to hang with Wayne at the reception while I wandered around a bit. The reception was up on the mezzanine, which wrapped around a large open space, If you headed down the hallways, there were lots of tables with local F&SF and/or writing organizations, and I tried to stop by all of them. That was handy, since I’ll be back in the area in October, and I talked to Tina Jens of Gumbo Fiction Salon about coming to read next time I’m in the area. Here’s Catherine Lundoff’s recounting of our encounter.
After that we headed off to the mass autographing. I had Matthew Johnson on one side and Bruce Holmes on the other, and also got a chance to chat with some folks here and there. WordFire Press had sent along some copies of Beasts of Tabat (Newer writers, this is one way a press shows they believe not just in your book but your career with them, and it is deeply appreciated) so there were some books to sign, along with a number of copies of the SFWA Cookbook.
Speaking of which, it was a big hit! It made a nice way to collect autographs, particularly with Larry Niven, our new grandmaster, having provided his instructions for running a coffee bar at a convention. We’ve sold a number of copies (Connie Willis bought 5!), and may end up doing another print run past our original 1000 copies. All proceeds go to benefit SFWA’s Legal Fund. You can still order it online. (Contributors, I am mailing you in the next couple of days about your copies, which should go out at the end of the month.) Fran Wilde remains the rockingest co-editor a woman could wish for.
Saturday morning I got early to met with Beth Gwinn to take a photo, which we staged on an odd and leathery green sofa in one of the Palmer House antechambers. Afterwards I went to the SFWA business meeting. I had to laugh – several of us arrived a half hour early just to make sure everything was set up, which we hadn’t coordinated. Despite a slight delay with the food, we got started on time, and it felt like a good meeting, which people were interested in and enthusiastic about the organization’s direction.
Right after that Steven Gould and I headed up to meet with Todd Vandemark, our videographer, to be interviewed. Todd did a number of interviews throughout the course of the weekend; you’ll be able to find them on our Youtube channel, where we’ll be releasing one every few weeks.
Man, this was a giddy blur. I thought it was a great job overall. Next year’s banquet space is a bit larger and even swanker, so that will be fun. That said, here are some moments that stand out.
- The opening video by Kate Baker, showing faces of so many friends, was a great way to start, and got everyone fired up. It was a beautiful job, and though it glitched briefly, the unexpected pause froze on Stanley Schmidt’s face, which surely was one of the most appropriate possible places.
- Seeing how glittery everyone was. Everyone cleans up pretty darn nicely, and Aliette de Bodard, Scott Edelman, Nancy Kress, Jack McDevitt, Valerie Schoen, Alyssa Wong were all rocking the house with their outfits. I’d been setting aside particularly glittery thrift store finds for the past year and all three dresses were a hit, but I saved the best for the banquet, and was pleased with the results, plus it was beautiful with the beaded jewelry that Sarah Hendrix made.
- Seeing student and friend Usman Malik on the ballot for his excellent story, although everyone was a tremendous pleasure. Ursula Vernon’s acceptance made me a little weepy
- Our toastmaster Nick Offerman introducing me as “And now, a small domestic animal who shoots down helicopters with a bow and arrow…. Cat Rambo!” as well as when he told Steven Silver, “You’ve come at the right time. They just took away your salad and brought your steak.”
- Watching actual teens present the Norton Award (the panel where teens talked about their reading was also a big hit, according to an attendee I talked to).
- Being able to present the Solstice Award to Joanna Russ, accepted by Mary Anne Mohanraj. Russ is one of the reasons I write speculative fiction, but she’s also shaped my worldview. This made me happy.
- Watching Joe Monti unveil the lovely new award medallions to go on books from Nebula and Norton nominees.
Nebula AftermathSunday morning I got up early to have breakfast with Rachel Swirsky, but things got derailed, as is the nature of conventions. (Another lesson for new con-goers: it is essential to go with the flow.) After that I headed down to the volunteer breakfast, which for me was one of the most important parts of the weekend. Heather McDougal made some very cool certificates of appreciation (volunteers who weren’t there, we’ll be sending them out next month). Two volunteers we particularly wanted to remember were Eugie Foster and Peggy Rae Sapienza, both of whom passed in the last year and were terrific members of the community. Matthew Foster accepted Eugie’s award as well as one of the commemorative coins as a special thank you.
My first panel was SFWA’s Next Fifty Years — A forum of SFWA members discuss the next fifty years for sf writing, including new technologies and publishing methods, and how they will affect the future of publishing and SFWA, with Steven Gould and Bud Sparhawk. We talked some about what we hoped to see down the line, about things like preserving institutional memory better and implementing project management software to track our efforts.
My last panel was on mentoring with Daryl Gregory and Steve Gould, who we’d drafted in Jack McDevitt’s place. There was a single audience member, Mary Mascari, so we moved to adjourn to the bar, where Chuck Gannon, Nancy Kress, Jack Skillingstead, and Bud Sparhawk joined us to add their advice. The rest of Sunday evening was decompressing a bit, and drinking enough wine to be ready to go upstairs and take a long-anticipated hot bath with my bookbag treasures. One very cool thing in the bags were the lovely trading cards created by publisher Walter Day.
Over the course of the weekend I got good time to talk with a lot of SFWA staff and volunteers, including Kate Baker, Michael Capobianco, Neil Clarke, Russell Davis, Cynthia Felice, Jim Fiscus, Matthew Foster, Jim Johnson, Derek Kunsken, Terra LeMay, Sarah Pinsker, Steven Silver, Bud Sparhawk, Rachel Swirsky, Jeremy Tolbert
Monday morning Steven H. Silver led Kate Baker, Michael Capobianco, Jaym Gates, and myself out for a tasty breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s, complete with beignets and prunes.
I headed out early on Monday morning and my last goodbye of the con was to Larry Niven, who was sitting waiting for someone to bring his luggage down. I conveyed my good wishes and it was a really nice way to end a fabulous weekend.
I don’t think I can possibly come close to mentioning everyone I talked to, but I remember some conversations with particular fondness, including words with John Joseph Adams, Astrid and Greg Bear, Catherine Brennan, Amanda Bridges, James Brown, Karl Dandenell, Sherri Davis, Beth Dawkins, Aliette de Bodard, Phyllis Eisenstein, Eric Flint, Esther Friesner, Megan Gillis, Gay and Joe Haldeman, Randy Kaempen, William Lawhorn, Ann Leckie, Catherine Lundoff, Carmen Machado, Jack McDevitt, Laura Mixon, Francesca Myman, Lettie Prell, Arley Sorg (thank you for the wine!), Caitlin, Lynne, and Michael Thomas, Liza Groen Trombi, Ursula and Kevin Vernon, LaShawn Wanak, Jacob and Rina Weisman, Connie Willis, and Christie Yant. To the people I have (inevitably) missed, my apologies and assurance that it is not due to a lack of regard, but simply my sieve-like memory.
Last piece of advice: Michael Stackpole told me this once, and it is so good to remember. For writers, these are working weekends. Don’t treat it like a vacation, but take a little time to rest the day after.
Here are Ellen Datlow’s photos from the weekend.
Now I’m finishing up a write-up for the SFWA Forum about all our volunteer efforts. With the Nebula Awards Weekend is over, there will be some new projects coming down the pike and VP-elect M.C.A. Hogarth and I have already been talking and getting our plans aligned. First off, though, I’m going to spend a little time with my godkids at the end of the month, then in July/August, I’m housesitting for a friend and finishing up Hearts of Tabat (with a brief break midway for Gencon!),