Nebula Awards Weekend 2008 Trip Report (Part 2 of 2)
Last weekend, I attended the 2008 Nebula Awards Weekend in Austin, Texas, as a finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction. Click here for the first half of my trip report, or just keep on reading for the second half...
Saturday of Nebula Weekend involved a lot more talking to fabulous people. I started the day with an in-depth discussion on the Return of the Jedi with the super-awesome Shanna Swendson and Elizabeth Wein. I then went out for a lovely lunch with Shanna. The weather was perfect, and we ate Mexican food outside at one of Shanna's old college haunts. So much fun!
Returned to the hotel in time (almost) for the SFWA Business Meeting. All the active members had to sign in. You should have seen this attendance sheet. My name was sandwiched between Joe Haldeman and Shanna Swendson. Hee-hee! I felt like a vandal who had sneaked in and added her name to the signatures on the Declaration of Independence. And then discovered there were secret clues on the back of the Declaration that were only visible with Ben Franklin's special glasses and... Sorry, bad movie reference. Couldn't resist.
Anyway, I chatted with more super-awesome people after the meeting: Rosemary Clement-Moore, Candace Havens, Amy Sisson, Paul Abell... (The ellipsis equals "and many other fabulous people".) Now, let's fast-forward... talk, talk, talk, walk, walk, walk, up the elevator, change the clothes, yada yada until...
The Nebula Awards Ceremony.
Okay, wait, back up a bit... yep, just there, to the elevator after I finished putting on my black-and-white vine dress. I walk over to the elevator, and there's a man standing there in coat and tie and jeans. He's not wearing a name tag, but he seems to know what my name tag means, so I guess that he's connected to the event and I say, "Hi, I'm Sarah Beth Durst." And he shakes my hand and says, "I'm Michael Chabon."
Yep, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, who later that night went on to win the Nebula for Best Novel.
We chatted on the way down the elevator, and I led him to registration. He was so super sweet. Plus he seemed genuinely excited to be there. (I mean, at the event, not just the registration desk, though I'm sure he was glad... oh, never mind.) At any rate, I really enjoyed talking with him.
Everyone began to arrive, and yes, I talked with more fabulous people but this time all the fabulous people were in fabulous outfits: Kij Johnson (in a gorgeous blue velvet gown), Nancy Kress (in glamorous black and white chiffon), Mary Robinette Kowal (in an elegant pants suit), Amy Sisson (in shimmery mermaid green), Diane Turnshek (in a white and gold gown), Shanna Swendson (in the red stilleto pumps that appear in her awesome Katie Chandler books), Delia Sherman (in a lovely embroidered Victorian-like dress), Rosemary Clement-Moore (in green taffeta), Candace Havens (in glamorous black), John Moore (in a tux), A. Lee Martinez (in a Futurama T-shirt and jeans because, as he said, part of the writing gig is that you don't have to dress up if you don't want to -- and he did point out that the shirt was new)...
After we'd all sufficiently admired each other, we commenced to the banquet. I had an awesome table. Starting on my left: Elizabeth Wein, Gay Haldeman, Joe Haldeman, Diana Gill, Candace Havens, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Anne Sowards, Jack McDevitt, and Liza Groen Trombi. I had a particularly great conversation with Liza, whom I'd never met before.
And then after dinner... the awards.
Oddly, during dinner, I hadn't thought much about the awards. (I say "oddly" because I was only a few feet away from the trophies. If I hadn't been in heels and, y'know, trying to look professional and all that, I could have grabbed one, tucked it under my arm like a football, and bolted out of the room. Not that the thought crossed my mind or anything.) Anyway, as soon as the emcee stepped on stage, my heart started to pound in this really fast and cliched way. It wasn't a scary sort of nervousness. I knew my chances were astronomically small -- seriously, folks, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the most popular YA fantasy book since, like, EVER was on the list -- but astronomically small is still not zero.
John Moore introduced the award, and Amy Sisson and Chris McKitterick walked across the stage to present. John handed them a black envelope with silver writing on the outside. My heart was thumping so fast and loud that I felt like my skin was vibrating. And they said, "And the nominees for the Andre Norton Award are..." And then they got to my name, "... Sarah Beth Durst for Into the Wild..." and they said it just like that, like the presenters do at the Academy Awards. Hearing those words, I nearly started to levitate.
A moment later, they sliced open the envelope with a sword-shaped letter opener and read the name "J.K. Rowling." The funny thing was that I kept smiling. I still felt like flying. My name had been announced as a finalist! I had to remind myself to quit smiling for at least a couple of seconds so that I didn't look like one of those idiots on award shows that acts overly-excited when someone else wins.
Don't get me wrong -- I wanted that award. (See above plan for grabbing the trophy and bolting.) But how could I be sad? I was there! I got to be a finalist! The only thing I was sad about was that the announcement of the award meant the experience was nearly over.
My heart rate calmed as I listened to the rest of the awards and speeches. In addition to J.K. Rowling for the Norton, the 2007 Nebula winners were Michael Chabon for Best Novel, Nancy Kress for Best Novella, Ted Chiang for Best Novelette, Karen Joy Fowler for Best Short Story, Guillermo del Toro for Best Script, and Michael Moorcock as SFWA Grand Master.
Afterwards, everyone gathered in the hospitality suite to talk, shoot pool, and bean each other with the foam moon-like balls given as party favors at the banquet. Really, I think it shows remarkable decorum and self-restraint that we didn't pelt each other with those balls during the banquet.
In keeping with the theme of the weekend, I talked to more fabulous people, including many already mentioned, plus Connie Willis, John Picacio, David Watson, Michael Marano, Michael Ehart, David Levine, Sheila Williams, Tobias Buckell...
Next morning, I checked out. By lucky coincidence, the super-sweet Sean Fodera was on the same flight as I was so I got to continue my streak of talking-with-fabulous-people all the way back to New York.
Really, the weekend was all about the people (and pins, certificates, ribbons, and pretty dresses, of course). In addition to everyone already mentioned in today and yesterday's posts, I also got to say hello to Jennifer Pelland, Betsy Mitchell, Beth Meacham, Peter Heck, Mary Turzillo, Bert Chamberlain, Neal Barrett, A.C. Crispin, C.J. Mills, Jessica Reisman, Milaka Falk, Eric James Stone, Scott Edelman... and many, many more. (If I didn't list you, please know that I still think you're fabulous!)
And last but certainly not least, a shout-out to the awesome Austin science fiction community... Karen Meschke (the fearless leader of the Nebula Awards Weekend committee), Sandy Del Monte (the tireless Hospitality Suite Goddess), Laura Domitz, Lillian Butler, Lee Martindale, Beverly Hale, Cherly DuCoin, Stina Leicht, and all the other wonderful people who organized everything for this event. Thank you for an incredible weekend!