theferrett: (Meazel)

Whenever I saw the Oscar losers saying “It’s an honor to be nominated,” I always envisioned gritted teeth and gut-roiling fury.  I mean, you just had your chance at the brass ring, and you came that close!  How could you be cheerful?

Yet I was grinning like a damn fool when I lost to Geoff Ryman.  As were all the other losers I talked to.  We had our pins, and our certificates, and our name immortalized in history, and the experience of being catapulted onto a much larger stage.

Who the hell could be upset?  There’s now one word that’s guaranteed to be in our obituary, and that word is “Nebula.”  We’ve made it.

It’s cool.

And it’s a weird bond; I spent the weekend hanging with my fellow nominees Jake Kerr, Rachel Swirsky, Katherine Sparrow, and Geoff Ryman – and there wasn’t an ounce of competition in there. It felt like an odd sort of club, one that contained only six people in the whole world, a once-in-a-lifetime bond: 2012 Novelette Nebula Nominee.  No one else will ever know what this is like.  We did lunch, we chatted in bars, we appeared on panels, we discussed our chances, and not once was there a bit of snark or anger.

(I met other nominee Charlie Jane Anders briefly after the ceremony, who seemed absolutely wonderful, but alas we got no time to hang and chill.  I hope to rectify this at a future event.)

I felt blessed to be in the company of such beautiful people.  I’d have been happy for any of them to have won.  And the man I was rooting the most for, my wonderful and compassionate
Clarion teacher Geoff Ryman, who had me sobbing on the airplane on the way to Clarion because his book Was is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever read?  Well, he won.  And when he walked back to his seat, I leapt out of mine to shake his hand and grin and pump the fist for him.  Because if there’s a man who possesses a cool grace and an ability to write straight to the vulnerable centers of the heart, it’s Geoff.

The weekend itself was a helter-skelter of events, and I’ll probably be posting anecdotes for the rest of the week, but here’s the ones I remember in a sleepy Monday muddle.

This Is The Panel That Never Ends…. It Just Goes On And On, My Friends….
Yes, there’s the irony of a panel on pacing going forty minutes overtime.  But there was no panel following us – and when you have such a fascinating topic as “How to get the rhythm of a story right,” and such fascinating panelists as Tom Crosshill, Rachel Swirsky, and Nancy Fulda (Nebula nominees all!), moderated by the vivacious radio host and Big Damn Author Ellen Kushner, you get a ton of feedback.

This panel was so good the audience didn’t leave.  It was like Writing 301, a bunch of advanced techniques we all used to figure out how to get the pacing of a story right – and our approaches were all so different, there was a lot of varying discussion as to how to nail it.  So we talked, and talked, and when at 2:15 we finally called the panel to a halt, half the audience walked up and kept the ball rolling.  Rachel Swirsky had to leave, but thankfully noted childrens’ author R.J. Anderson took her place, and next thing you know we had a long discussion on how to handle critiques.

It was really amazing.  My friend Ruby took a video of the “official” panel on her smartphone, and I hope it’s usable.  I’d love for you to see it.

Meet My Signing Buddy, Franny
The author signing was a first for me, since as an author of short stories I’ve never had anything I could expect anyone to sign.  You can buy books in the dealers’ room…. but if you want me to sign your copy of Asimov’s, you need to remember to bring it with you.  And frankly, I’m not that big.

But thankfully, Nancy Fulda created a Nebula Awards Weekend book with one of my stories in it, and so people could buy a book to sign.  So I sat at a small table.

Next to me was someone I didn’t know, so we introduced ourselves, and it was a woman called Franny Billingsley – who was remarkably fun to talk to!  She was a children’s author but it was her first sci-fi con, so I explained what this “Clarion workshop” was and she told me about what YA conventions were like, and it was a remarkably warm way of passing the time.

Even better, since I knew more people here, when they came to see me, I could go, “And do you know Franny?” and then all of us got into a discussion together.  So by the time I went to wander the floor and get my book signed, I left a merry discussion of writers.

Which was oddly convivial.  For now and forevermore, Franny will be my book-signing buddy, the two of us at the table as readers sporadically came up, book in hand, to ask for signatures.

And only later did I discover that Franny was so modest she didn’t even note that she was up, you know, for the National Book Award.

What a wonderful person.

The Night Before
There was a Nebula nominees reception the night before, where we were to be honored.  I didn’t quite know what that meant, but hey!  This would only happen once.  So I went.

What they didn’t tell us (which was a shame, because several of the nominees – including Charlie Jane – had wandered off) was that the reception was where John Scalzi would present you with your official Nebula nominee certificate and your pin, and then you’d be taken off for photos.

That’s when it became real.

Up until then, a part of my mind had been going, “Oh, no, this will be a mistake, they’ll probably take it away from you.”  But as I walked up to the podium and Scalzi handed me the blue folder with the silver stars, I opened it up and saw my name.  This was no dream.  This was my life, my blessed life.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

The Night Of
So for the Nebulas, I had to dress up.  And my lovely wife Gini helped me into my monkey suit:

Me at Nebulas!

Note the Nebula pin – which is a lot thinner and more losable than I’d have thought – and my Star Wars tie.  I kept telling people all evening that it was my TIE fighter.

Nobody laughed.

My wife, however, looked fucking stellar.  She kept joking that her job at the Nebulas was to be my arm candy, and oh boy was she:

My Nebula arm candy, Gini.

When I got there, I was happily surprised to see Neil Gaiman, who was a last-minute addition.  And Neil, who’d been with me during my reformatary stages at Clarion, drew me into a warm hug that went on for longer than I thought and said, “Bubbeleh!”  He’s surprisingly, endearingly, proud of me.

When he said “Bubbeleh,” it felt like I was being welcomed to the next level.  That all of this hard work I’ve put into writing – the hours wandering in the garden figuring out the next scene, the endless rejections, the workshops and cons I travelled to – had finally paid off.  And that was a lovely thing to see.

Some pros told me, serenely, “You’ll be back.”  I don’t share their confidence.  For me, I struck lightning once.  But the fact that I made it once is enough, and that won’t stop me.  Because you know what real writing fucking is?

Jon Walter Williams held a three-hour intensive lecture on plotting and structure.  And when I looked around the room of twenty people, at least four of us had been nominated for a Nebula.  Here we were, being given one of the biggest honors in the field… and all of us had said, “No, there’s so much more work to do.”

That’s how you get to a Nebula.  I got here.  You can, too.  Because Neil told me, “You just need to write.”  And that’s what I did.

Now you.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I will be attending the Nebula Awards this weekend, where I will be the happiest loser in the world.  When they say it’s an honor just to be nominated… boy, they’re not kidding.

In any case, if you happen to be in Washington DC this weekend and would like to see a weasel, there are several places at which you can catch me:

I’ll be at the Mass Autograph Signing from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., signing copies of my latest book.  What’s that, Ferrett? you ask.  You don’t have a book yet, you exclaim.  Oh, but I do, thanks to fellow nominee Nancy Fulda, who has created the Awards Weekend Collector’s Edition, which features works by eleven authors who will be at the Nebula weekend.  I’ll have it, I can sign it, and if you’re quite lucky you can get a full run and have all eleven authors put their name on it.

(My story in there is “As Below, So Above,” my generational tale told from the perspective of the monsters in a mad scientist’s moat.  Read it in advance, and I’ll even draw a squid for you.)

(And while you’re at it, read Nancy’s Nebula- and Hugo-nominated story “Movement,” a tale of future autism that is a fascinating exercise in tone.  I nominated it, and am glad to see my tastes vindicated.)

(And while you’re extra at-it, note that I am currently in search of an agent for my book, so if you’re interested… call me!)

At 1:00 on Saturday, I’ll be on the “Watch That Step!” panel with Tom Crosshill, Nancy Fulda, Ellen Kushner, and Rachel Swirsky, where I’ll be discussing pacing in stories.  This oughtta be interesting, because my pacing is usually pretty reflexive – you kind of develop a sense of fast and slow after writing blog entries for, I dunno, a decade.  So discussions will be had.

And if you feel like hanging out and you’re a press type, I’ll be available for interviews at 3:00 on Friday.  I suspect strongly I’ll be hanging out in an empty room twiddling my thumbs, but should a reporter show up I will perk up nicely and answer all available questions on squids and space stations that I can.

Also, if we’ve met before, feel free to text me – or email me at theferrett@theferrett.com to get my phone number so we can coordinate drinks.  We shall see what happens.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’m feeling random today, so have some random.

Today’s 4/20!
I’ve never really liked marijuana, and as such I can never really find a celebration of it all that entertaining.

I dunno.  Maybe it works for other people, but every time I’ve smoked marijuana I have really stupid thoughts that never seem to produce anything interesting in the light of day, then I eat until I’m sick.  Then the next day I feel tired and unmotivated.  It’s better than cigarettes in that at least I feel a radical initial high (as opposed to just coughing a lot), but the fetishization of pot just always makes me wonder what I’m missing out on.  So much of pot culture seems to idolize sitting around the house watching TV, and that’s mystifying.

I mean, hey, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it.  Pot should be legal, and I don’t have to get something to say, “Hey, you go ahead and have fun now.”  But in this case the experience of what other people have with pot deviates so much from my own that it’s actively bizarre to me to see people excited to smoke pot, let alone posting excitedly on Twitter going, “It’s 4/20, man, I can’t wait!”

On The Nebulas
Jim Hines said today that everyone nominated for a major award has the “What if I win?!?!” freakout.  I think it says something about me that I have not once ever thought that I’d win, something confirmed by Sauerkraut Station‘s lack of nomination for the Hugos.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have been nominated.  It’s a major honor!  But my brain immediately went, “That’s as far as you’re gonna get, you’re going up against Rachel Swirsky and Geoff Ryman and Charlie Jane Anders, and those three alone would bury you.”  And I’ve gone on happily going, “I’m gonna attend the Nebulas!  As a nominee!” and never once attached the word “winner” to my head.

The things my brain chooses not to freak out about are odd indeed.

On Levon Helm
I think everyone who is lamenting the loss of music great Levon Helm should read Bart Calendar’s essay on his death, and feel shamed.

The short version is that Levon, a rich and successful man, was bankrupted by fifteen years of cancer.  And I think that’s the myth that conservatives are peddling to stupid people: that hey, if you’re smart and rich and have good health care, you’ll be okay.

Except, as anyone who’s ever actually fucking met someone who’s been through a large-scale disease knows, this is not actually true.  You can do everything quote-unquote right and still get fucked by our system.

I’ve talked to idiots who’ve said, “Well, if I get sick and I’m getting substandard treatment, I’ll just switch to a better insurance company,” as if the term “pre-existing condition” didn’t fucking exist.  I’ve talked to morons who’ve thought that if you had really good insurance, you’d be completely safe, and that the insurance would never run out or refuse a claim.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you don’t know how good your insurance actually is until you get direly ill.  Every insurance company looks good on paper.  But they can screw you bureaucratically in a thousand ways.  And they’re incentivized to, since a for-profit organization loses money every time they pay for a sick person’s treatments.

And yes, I’m sure you’ve had your insurance claims go well for some major illnesses, conservatives.  That’s fine.  I’m glad yours went well.  But you don’t get to use anecdotes about the horrific failures of the European system as evidence that socialized medicine is evil without acknowledging the fact that some pretty damn well-off people have to work through cancer in order to keep their family afloat.  To acknowledge that the idea that “good insurance and wealth is a catch-all” is not a 100% shield against going bankrupt.

(G’wan.  Talk to my wife, the bankruptcy lawyer, about this.  She knows how many bankruptcies come from medical claims.)

In short, if you’re a fan of Levon Helm and against the socialized medicine and Obamacare, then take a look at the hell that you – yes, you – put him through and decide whether you’re really a fan.  Or whether your policies were fair.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

1)  I realize how much Clarion changed my concept of “How publishing works” when I think about my new bio:

Nebula-nominated author Ferrett Steinmetz has been published in Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Redstone SF, and Escape Pod, among others….

See, back in the day, I was infuriated because I had a big blog audience (a lot larger than it is now, Itellyawhat) and couldn’t understand why people were rejecting my stories!  After all, I had people I could point at their website!  I had marketshare!  I mean, if my story was decent, my sheer numbers should be a tiebreaker!

What I’ve realized since is that publishing is all about this story, right here, right now.  It doesn’t matter what your credentials; if the story’s not moving you, you don’t want it in your magazine.  You might get more folks coming by, but what they’ll see is that you published a pretty mediocre story, and think poorly of you.  As an editor, Sheila Williams has rejected Nebula-winners lots of times when they don’t deliver on this collection of words.

Hence, my new author bio will make slush readers hesitate in cover letters.  They’ll raise their eyebrows and go, “This has a chance to be really good.”

From there on, though, it’s about the words I put on the goddamned page, and nothing more.

2)  It does make my Illuminati hackles go up when I realize that I know every single one of the people in my category, having either met them or interacted with them online.  Isn’t this proof of the Great Publishing Cabal?  Isn’t this just the evidence that the big awards are all about Who You Know?

Maybe ten years ago, that’d be true.  But the Internet has kind of levelled that off.

Now, thanks to Twitter and Facebook and the CODEX forums and SFWA forums, you can interact with many authors you love.  It’s not necessarily that the sci-fi world is inbred, but rather that if you go to two or three conventions, you’ll get to meet hundreds of talented people… And keep up with them using social media.  I know lots of writers who aren’t on the ballot, too, and I read a lot of short fic so I’ll follow people who’ve impressed me.  The percentages of knowing someone who’s an up-and-comer are high, once you’re sufficiently immersed.

In addition, some much-needed changes to the Nebula awards have made it so that the best stories rise to the top in a Reddit-like fashion.  There was a SFWA-members board where people who liked stories can upvote them anonymously for others’ consideration, and I know I found a couple of my favorites that way.  This is a great change that makes it more story-centered, less author-centered… Which is a good thing.

I dunno.  There’s a lot of young turks on this year’s ballot, and I feel proud to be among this new generation of writers.  It feels like being part of a new wave.  Which, I tell you, is lovely.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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