Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hobnobbing... And The Story Of How I Really Won The Campbell...

Anticipation was definitely a productive con in terms of hobnobbing with author and publishing types. I can never remember everyone, but here's a partial list of folks I got to hang out with, in no particular order at all: John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jay Lake, Melinda Snodgrass, Patrick Rothfuss, Doselle Young, Paolo Bacigalupi, Jim Kelly, Ellen Kushner, Ellen Datlow, Guy Gavriel Kay, Nalo Hopkinson, Neil Gamain (just thought I'd slip that in there), Neal Stephenson (very brief), Catherynne M. Valente, Jetse de Vries, Jennifer Jackson, George RR Martin (and Parris), Ian Tregillis, Gardner Dozois, Lou Anders, John Picacio, Paul Cornell, Cory Doctorow, David Levine, Jonathan Strahan, Geoff Ryman, L E Modesitt, NK Jemison, Cheryl Morgan, Daniel A. Rabuzzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Amelia Beamer, Gary K Wolfe, John Kessel, Tobias Buckell, Gregory Wilson, Pat Cadigan, Kate Nepveu, Kyle Cassidy, Niall Harrison, Joe and Gay Haldeman... Geez. Makes me think I know a few people in this business now.

And, of course, I really enjoyed the brief snatches of time I got to spend with the other Campbell Finalists. It was a bit strange at first. Hey, we were all up for the same award. Felix Gilman and I first met when we had a signing together. We didn't do much signing, admittedly. Mostly we were just sitting there a little awkward as an occasional person either 1) stood in front of Felix and told him how great he was while I feigned interest in the length of Cory Doctorow's neverending line, or 2) as (a different person) stood in front of me and said how awesome I was as Felix rearranged the display of his books... Kinda strange.

Aliette de Bodard came and visited. More polite conversation ensued. I knew already that liked all these folks, but that strange award tension/reality sort of hung over everything. First time I bumped into Tony Pi, he stipulated that he wished me exactly as much luck as I wished him. Sort of an even exchange. Fair enough, really.

But still, well... a few drinks can help loosen things up. For example, all tension was gone on the party floor the night before the award ceremony when Tony Pi and Gord Sellar accosted me coming out of an elevator. They had devised a way to cut through all the suspense and predict the winner ahead of time. Easy. All we each had to do was make a paper airplane of our own design, and then compete to see who could throw it furthest. By the time I got involved, Tony and Aliette were already disqualified. It was me against Gord in this round.

We just barely managed to clear enough space in the crowded hallway, but then we tossed... This may have been where my competitors erred. You see, I do have two kids. I have made and tossed airplanes more recently than many. On this occasion, Gord's plane dove for the carpet and mine lofted above the heads of admiring fans... Or something like that. Might be imagining that part, but the result was clear enough. I won. Felix didn't compete and I don't think any of us found him that night, but the dye was cast.

And that, friends, is the true story of how I won the John W Campbell Award. I tossed a paper airplane a few feet longer than my competition. As good a way to decide things as any, I imagine. It's fitting, really, because I don't for a minute think awards like this have anything to do with who is "Best". No chance. It's about being lucky. Yes, some talent is helpful. Hard work is a must. But that's what got us ALL there as finalists. What it really comes down to is being lucky. That's what I was.

I also feel fortunate to have been able to spend time with Aliette, Tony, Gord and Felix. I hope they'll consider me a friend, as I'm absolutely positive they'll be doing great work for some time to come. I know we'll all meet again, and I hope that we'll do so as comrades. I have every intention of following their careers and pointing out their successes every chance I get.

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