Long version: One of the best parts of being SFWA President or Vice President is that you get to be one of the people calling the Nebula nominees to tell them what’s up. This is a lot of fun because giving people good news is almost always a terrific experience. I’ve ever gotten to call former students on occasion, and thought my heart would burst from joy, because that is a terrific feeling.
This year I woke on February 16, the day we would be making the calls, to find a message from our Nebula Awards Commissioner asking me to give her a call. I did, and she presented me with news that both delighted and horrified me, that my novelette, “Red in Tooth and Cog,” was on the ballot.
Delighted, because I like that story, and think it’s a good one. A number of people whose opinion I value highly have expressed praise for it, and it’s also something that represents a victory for me. I was grimly determined to be published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction – it was a publication that represented an enormous milestone to me – and that acceptance was my 44th submission to the magazine over the course of 12 years. It wasn’t that the other stories were bad ones. One of them, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” even went on to become a Nebula nominee in 2013.
And horrified, because I don’t want things to look like the Nebulas are motivated by concerns other than literary excellence, and it seemed to me that this could look like that since I have engendered a little popularity while President, mainly because I am so goddamn personable. And I was sure there would be a certain amount of grumbling about it. So before we moved forward, I had to decide whether or not to withdraw it
I made some coffee, went for a walk, and spent a good bit of time thinking about it, talking to my spouse and my best friend, as well as a number of other SFWA folk. I was aware that there was precedent for either decision. In the end, I thought that to withdraw it would be a disservice to the members who liked it and wanted to see it on the ballot. If I wasn’t satisfied that it’s a good story, if I hadn’t previously had a story on a ballot when not involved with the SFWA Board, then I might’ve made a different decision and there are undoubtedly parallel universes where our ballot was different. But if I was appearing on the ballot just because of the Presidency, the time for that would have been last year, when my first novel came out. I think. Maybe. Who knows? Maybe in another universe it did.
However, back in this universe, apparently the fact that in the course of editing the 8,000 word story, what emerged was actually short story rather than novelette length, had managed to escape us all over the course of the past year, and so my happiness at finally getting a chance to tell everyone, huzzah, came to an end a bit precipitously. You’ll forgive any rawness to my tone; I think it’s natural.
This presented me with a new dilemma. I could allow it to be moved to the short story category, which would have bumped off not one, but three stories, which had tied for that slot. But that seemed pretty unfair, and made three people pay for the screw-up, instead of just one. So, I’m withdrawing the story. Kudos to the wonderful reading still on the ballot — there is a ton of great stuff on there and you should read it all.
Should the length issue have gotten caught before now? You bet. But if it had to happen on my watch, I am relieved that it happened to me rather than someone else. Is it a solid gut punch? Sure. But there have been others in my life and this is hardly the worst. I still get to go to the Nebulas and enjoy them as one of the ringmasters of that circus. So…wah! Very sad in some ways, but so it goes. Sometimes one puts one’s big girl pants on and soldiers forward without too much entitled whining.
I will, though, try to squeeze a few drop of lemonade from this lemon. If you like what I’m doing, and if you want me to keep persevering, there’s several ways of encouraging me. You can:
- Make a pledge on Patreon. A flash reading is going up tomorrow and a new story is going up Wednesday.
- Buy the steampunk StoryBundle I just curated
- Buy another of my books, such as my new collection, Neither Here Nor There or steampunk stories Altered America. If you liked Red in Tooth and Cog, you may enjoy my collection of SF, Near + Far.
- Check out my online school, The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, and spread the word of it.
- If you liked my story “Left Behind,” it’s on the Locus ballot. If you wrote in “Red in Tooth & Cog,” do make sure you stick it in the story category. 😉
Today’s been crazy. Tonight I’m working my way through some Tillamook chocoloate peanut butter ice cream, Black Jack, and a few levels of Skyrim.