My Report: Pittsburgh 2017 Nebula Conference

Swag bags assembled and awaiting distribution.

Swag bags assembled and awaiting distribution.

I got back late last night, after a trip back that included a lost reservation, my luggage being overweight (how could that be? oh, look at all those books) so I had to repack a bit at the counter under the check-in agent’s impatient gaze, and the poor kid beside me throwing up steadily all the way from PIT to IAD. It’s always weird, the day after travel, because one feels as though you’ve been simultaneously on vacation and yet working harder than most days.

I cannot begin to enumerate all the ways that weekend was wonderful. It was a great joy to see months and months of planning finally bear fruit and now we can relax for at least a couple days before thinking about next year. The programming was, in my opinion, outstanding. My only quarrel would be that there was so much good stuff that I could not get to every panel I wanted to, and that I could not spend enough time with the fabulous SFWA events team of Kate Baker, Terra LeMay, and Steven H Silver, who are responsible for everything that was wonderful.

One of the challenges for the Programming Team, led by Mary Robinette Kowal, was making sure the programming had something for all writers, whether they were tradpub, small press, indie, or hybrid. There were so many terrific, in-depth panels, including a wealth of shadow programming additions and office hours with writers and other publishing professionals. It made me think back to a Nebula from several years when I was on a lackadaisical panel about writers block that was, I think, so much less useful than it could have been and realize just how far the Nebula Conference has come from the days of “let’s all get together in a hotel and hand out the awards and then drink a lot.”

Literally the busiest person at the conference: SFWA's fabulous Executive Director Kate Baker

Literally the busiest person at the conference: SFWA’s fabulous Executive Director Kate Baker

Sarah Pinsker did a great job with the mentoring program, which matched up literally dozens of folks for mentoring sessions that were, for a number of folks, a major highlight of the con. I am sure many of the relationships formed there will last long after this weekend; I know I picked up two of my mentee’s books and am looking forward to reading them.

The book depot structure, so adeptly administered by Sean Wallace, meant that everyone had a chance to have their books there. That had been an issue for a number of the indies last year and it was gratifying to see that problem addressed. I apologize for being one of the people who brought a stack of books in at the last minute; Sean was very patient with the number of us who did so.

I will not claim everything was perfect; I think I’m one of the people most acquainted with every behind-the-scene misstep and/or perceived slight that needed smoothing over. But so many of the small touches were stellar. The centerpieces on the banquet tables were charming robots assembled from vintage materials by artist Don L. Jones. There were plenty of chances for networking with partners and finding new and interesting opportunities. The gender-neutral bathroom was there, and usable, and in a place where people could find it. The Volunteer Breakfast on Sunday was lovely; we had a great turn-out and people liked the appreciation certificates and special SFWA temporary tattoos. (I still have a lot of these and am happy to mail them to SFWAns.) Toastmaster Kjell Lindgren was charming and smart and loves SF as much as any of us; he even showed us the books that drew him on his lifepath.

Speaking of reading, the swag bags were STUFFED with great stuff; I was making a number of happy noises while unpacking mine. I also enjoyed pointing people at the excess tables towards books that I knew were terrific, like Sarah Kuhn’s The Heroine Complex or Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Spirit Binders books.

Picture of SFWA President Cat Rambo holding a small robot sculpture

I brought a robot home with me.

I got to wear several of my more high-end thrift store finds from this year, and also learned how to pack garments that consist mainly of chainmail-like layers of sequins. I also learned that such things really end up being heavy when you accumulate a few in one suitcase. My banquet dress was a big hit; I’ve never been asked before “who were you wearing?”, which amuses me and may underscore the lengths to which I will go in SFWA’s service.

I did indeed announce that SFWA will be giving out a game-writing Nebula. Not an award with a separate name, like the Andre Norton or Ray Bradbury Award, but a Nebula. Why? Because game-writing deserves to be right up there in the ranks, not treated like a special case (no disrespect is intended there to either of the named awards). If you’re a gamewriter interested in providing feedback on how SFWA can help/serve gamewriters — or better yet, if you’re interested in helping make that happen by volunteering — I’d love to hear from you, and you can find my contact information here.

Next year’s Nebulas will again be in Pittsburgh and at the same hotel. Overall, they did a pretty solid job (with a few overwhelmed restaurant bobbles) and I know the manager and the events team sat down together on Sunday and went over everything that went wrong and how we can avoid them next year, down to details like marking the ramp’s edges with white tape so next time no one trips and has a bad fall over that invisible edge.

Selfie with SWA's CFO, Bud Sparhawk.

Selfie with SFWA’s CFO, Bud Sparhawk.

The business meeting on Saturday went smoothly; I don’t think there were any real surprises for anyone. The officer election results were announced; thank you and welcome to incoming officers Curtis Chen, Andy Duncan, Jeffe Kennedy, and John P. Murphy, with special thanks again to Erin M. Hartshorn for agreeing to take up M.C.A. Hogarth’s sparkly war axe. The most contentious discussion was a member who felt that some members might prefer to write letters to the editor in the e-newsletter The Singularity in order to communicate with fellow members than use the discussion forums; the agreement was made that should anyone wish to write such a letter, we will include it in The Singularity. Afterwards we had a panel in the same room about all the stuff SFWA offers writers; the challenge was that we didn’t have enough time to cover it all.

I don’t often get to surprise Steven H Silver, and yet Kate and I managed to keep the fact that Walter Day had made one of his awesome trading cards for him secret until the banquet. Walter’s trading cards are so nifty; he’s up to over 200 of them now and they were one of the nifty features of the swag bags. He also presented Jane Yolen with a special blown-up version of her new one. Jane gave a lovely speech, finishing with her Sally Field moment, and just generally was awesome and generous with her time all throughout the weekend.

The Super Nebula Showcase HumbleBundle has one day to go. So far it has raised more money for the SFWA Givers Fund, which administers grants to promote F&SF writing, than the Fund gave out last year. If you haven’t checked it out — there’s an awful lot of good reading in there.

Liz Argall did an adorable cartoon about the weekend, and another based on my closing words, which I hope she’ll post at some point, but I will reiterate them. It was so lovely to see you all. You are my people and I appreciate the trust you’ve given me. I’ll keep trying to steer things in a reasonable direction, but you’re the ones powering the ship. Thank you.

Many thanks to the Future Affairs Administration for live tweeting the Nebulas — they had over 4.5 million page views, which is awesome. I hope to be in Chengdu this winter to meet some of those viewers.

I am sure I have left out so much, and I suspect I’ll be updating this post throughout the next couple days as things occur to me, but I wanted to get a post up so peeps who weren’t there got to see some of the pictures. Here’s a few more.

Robots awaiting distribution to the banquet tables.

Robots awaiting distribution to the banquet tables.

With our fabulous Toastmaster.

With our fabulous Toastmaster.

Walked into the SFWA office to find Seanan McGuire had built us a castle.

Walked into the SFWA office to find Seanan McGuire had built us a castle.

Facebook Twitter Email

Related Posts:

About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
This entry was posted in SFWA and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.