Most people get an enjoyable thrill out of imagining what it would be like to win the lottery. How would they tell their friends and family? They go on a mental shopping spree, spending huge sums of money on all kinds of things. I’ve done this kind of day-dreaming before and it does give you a thrill to engage in this kind of wish fulfillment. But the daydreams that give me the biggest thrill, more even than those that involve winning the lottery (which I believe would be far more stressful than it seems) are writer’s daydreams.
For me, this is the daydream in which I sell a science fiction story. These daydreams still occur despite my having already sold a couple of stories. Whenever I have a story out in the wild, whether that story is buried somewhere in a slush pile, or sitting on the desk of an editor I happen to know, I am apt to fall into a reverie, imaging the thrill and excitement of how it would feel to receive an acceptance.
These daydreams have a way of becoming steadily more grandiose in their nature. They evolve from making a sale to the excitement of seeing the story appear in print half a year or more down the road. And when the story appears in print, they turn to the possibility of critical acclaim, of opening up a copy of LOCUS or some other magazine or blog and seeing a positive review of the story by someone with clout within the industry. From there, the dream continues on unabated to the receipt of fan mail; of being at a well-attended convention and having a stranger wander up to me with a copy of the magazine in hand, asking me to sign it for them, as I have asked so many of my favorite authors to do for me.
Daydreams like these have no bounds. As I continue on my mental journey, I imagine receiving word that my story has garnered a Nebula recommendation; then another, and another, and three more. Before I know it my story appears first on the preliminary Nebula ballot, then the final Nebula ballot. There on that final ballot in the same category as mine, are names like Haldeman and Sawyer and Steele and Burstein. Good-natured phone calls and emails are exchanged between the nominees and I think to myself at last that the honor is merely appearing on the same list as these stalwarts of our profession.
But my daydreams do not allow me to stop there, no, they take on an uncharacteristic element of delusional grandeur. Having made the final ballot (I imagine) it only makes sense to make an appearance at the Nebula Awards banquet, if only to hear my name read from the list of finalists. And so there I am, decked out in the suit I last wore on my honeymoon, sitting at a table with people who, for me, have been heroes of mine since childhood. They are talking to me as if I am one of them. The talk only occasionally touches on the business of writing. Mostly it’s about travel or sports or the kids back at home, mundane things, but thrilling nonetheless because of who I am speaking with.
Then comes the awards and watching in awe as this person wins and that person wins, and in the category of Best Short Story (yes, I know this award is usually given first, but this is my daydream, remember?) the nominees are read off and the presenter then opens the envelope and intones, “And the Nebula goes to–” and I hear the title of my story being read outloud, “–by Jamie Todd Rubin,” and there is a look of utter, unbelievable surprise on my face and the people at my table, these demigods of mine, are laughing, and clapping and urging me up to the podium.”
And I get up there, shaking in my imagination as much as I shake in real-life from the thrill of the dream itself, hands placed nervously on the podium, eyes scanning the haze of the audience, all a blur, and my thoughts repeating again and again, remember this moment, it will never get any better than this moment. And though my imagined self hasn’t prepared a speech, I take a nervous breath and holding up my Nebula, say to these people all of whom I love dearly, “This is the power of science fiction. I won this not because of any particular skill on my part, but because of what I was taught by Isaac. And Lester. And Barry. And Cyril. And Rob. And Robert. And Michael. And Joe. And Alfie. And Fred and Arthur and Judith and Jack and Harlan and Ray. I stand here tonight on the shoulders of giants. They all contributed to this story in their own way and without them it would be nothing.” I am in tears and there is not a dry eye in the room as the audience rises to their feet in a thundering applause that takes my breath away.
I don’t know if there are other writer’s who have daydreams like these, but it is these daydreams that keep me going. And I’ll take these daydreams over winning the lottery any day.