Nebula Award Weekend Day 3: Or, where I gave a Nebula to Geoff Ryman, accepted one for Ken Liu, and got to meet Neil Gaiman

Yes, it says Day 3. I have temporarily skipped Day 2 in order to get today’s incredible events down on record before sleep wipes the cream away. Day 2 will come later. It is all very “Repent Harlequin!”-esque.

The day began with me heading off to the Hyatt in Crystal City at about 9am and, once there, attempting to find Alethea Kontis to get my badge back from her. She’d asked to borrow it for who knows what nameless purposes and I’d agreed. At any rate, I eventually found her and we then grabbed a quick breakfast in order to energize for the morning.

I ran into Bud Sparhawk while waiting for Alethea. I’d incautiously told him how terrific I think his blog is because the frustrations he expresses there (writerly frustration, mind you) are the very same kind of frustrations that go through my head an I was enormously relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one. I can’t do it justice. Just go over and read his blog yourself.

I know, I know, you want to here about the Nebula part and the Ken Liu part, and the Neil Gaiman part, but you’ll just have to be patient.

The first scheduled event of the morning for me was the SFWA Business Meeting, which, as an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American, I felt obliged to attend. I wanted to get there early to ensure a decent seat. But the room was occupied by another event. Standing outside the room, however, was John Scalzi, and for about 15 minutes, I got to chat with him, just the two of us, and it was very, very cool.

Then there was the SFWA meeting, in which I was made fun of for taking notes, but hey, at least I can now recall what went on in the meeting. That much is probably of little or no interest here. But…

After that meeting, I managed to run into Ferret Steinmetz and a few others (Alethea Kontis, Kat Otis) who were making a Subway run, which I joined. We grabbed some food, brought it back to the hotel, ate together, and then headed off in our separate ways. My way was to find a couch to do some more interview prep-work. I didn’t get any done. I spent quite a while talking with SFWA’s wonderful office manager Kate Baker. We chatted about writing, about our kids, and about baseball, she forgiving the fact that I am a Yankees fan, and I ignoring the fact that she is a Red Sox fan.

Others joined us. I finally got to meet Damien Walters Grinalis in person and she joined our little posse. Others moved in and out. I was whisked away by Steven Silver at one point so that he could explain the mechanics of the evening to me and  Ginjer Buchanan. By the time I got back to the posse, Damien had disappeared but Bud Sparhawk and Jack McDevitt has arrived. (Damien eventually returned.)

It was at the bar, while we were having drinks, that I received a message from Kelly that I imagined was mis-transcribed by Google Voice: “There is a bird in the bedroom. Not sure what to do.” I called her, and sure enough, a bird had materialized in our room. I was about to head home anyway. I left the hotel, walked back to the car, drove home, and discovered that a bird had somehow gotten into our bedroom. I opened all of the windows and screens, tried to darken the rest of the room, and within 5 minutes, I watched the bird fly free. But still, we have no explanation. None.

Kelly and I dressed for the banquet. The babysitter arrived on time. The kids mostly cooperated. And we found $6 parking right next to the hotel!

When we arrived, the cocktail hour had just started. We got some drinks and mingled, chatting with a variety of folks. I introduced Kelly to Jack McDevitt, and she said, “I’ve heard Jason talk about him, too.” The “Jason” to whom she refers is my brother-in-law–my sister’s husband (I don’t say that to be redundant; I have two brothers-in-law named Jason) who is, in fact, almost as a big a Jack McDevitt fan as I am. I also introduced Kelly to John Scalzi and a few others, including the cool Codex folks I’d been hanging out with.

We were finally summoned into the dining hall, found our table (#16) and proceeded through dinner with the very funny Walter Jon Williams presiding. It was around this time, early in the dinner, that I first noticed Neil Gaiman, sitting halfway across the room.

“Which one is he?” Kelly asked.

“The movie, Coraline,” I said, knowing she’d seen that one.

We proceeded through the awards and I grew more and more nervous as my time got closer. There were moving speeches and funny speeches and a wonderfully funny and moving speech by science fiction’s newest Grand Master, Connie Willis. Neil Gaiman won his Bradbury for the Doctor Who episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” and gave a very good speech. Then the Nebula awards started.

The first award was the short story and I was accepting this award on behalf of the incredibly talented and prolific Ken Liu, should he win. I was instructed to get into my position once Ginjer got to the podium. I stood next to Steven Silver, my heart pounding, and I’d keyed in the word “You” into my phone. I was terrified to type “win” until I knew for sure out of fear that I might prematurely send the message to Ken. But when the winner was announced, it was Ken and Steven said, “Well, get up there,” and I headed toward the podium as Walter announced that I’d be accepting the award for Ken.

I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams as a starry-eyed child who wanted nothing more than to be a science fiction writer, standing at the podium of the Nebula Awards for whatever reason. Connie Willis was in the audience. Joe Haldeman and Jack McDevitt and Jo Walton and the wonderful keynote speaker, astronaut Mike Fincke were in the audience. Neil Gaiman was in the audience. All of these wonderful writers, editor, agents, publishers, reviewers, and fans, there they were.

I tried my best to read the speech Ken gave me as smoothly and gracefully as I could, and I think I did okay, but despite that, I was off somewhere else, like an out of body experience.

With the speech done, I took the Nebula (heavy as it is!) and headed off the stage, but I stayed put at the bottom of the stairs. Walter turned toward me and said, “Well, Jamie, you could have just stayed up here since you are presenting the next award.”

I returned to the podium, and proceeded to read the nominees for Best Novelette. When I was finished, I tore open the envelope and looked at the winner. For that one moment, I knew who had one and virtually no one else did. That was a cool moment. The winner, of course, was Geoff Ryman and I was able to hand him his award and then (finally) proceed off stage.

Once the remaining two awards had been given out (Kij Johnson’s “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” and Jo Walton’s Among Others) the winners and accepters had to pose for a big group photograph with the awards. That was when I met Neil Gaiman, since he had won an award. I stood beside him and Joe Haldeman for a few of the photos, then shifted around so that I was between Joe Haldeman (the Grand Master of science fiction!) and Mike Fincke (who had spent more of a year of his life in space!) and really, it was Ken who did all of the work.

I looked at the two awards that Neil held and I asked, “Is that iron?”

“Yes,” he said, “and they are really heavy!”

Heavy! That’s a perfect way to describe the evening. Gee!

Oh, and by the way, at least until tomorrow morning, there is a Nebula award sitting on my desk in my home office:



  1. Thanks for helping out. And believe me, all those moments of coolness you felt accepting for Ken and presenting to Geoff, I feel ’em, too, which is one of the reasons I’ve helped chair the Nebulas for the last four years.


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