Nebula Weekend in Review

Home now. Got in yesterday evening and had time to lovingly set my Nebula on the mantle and gawk reverently at it, unpack the barest essentials, have a light dinner, sort through all the emails and flag the ones that require response (but not, mind you, actually respond to them), and keel over comatose.

Awake, still dazed, still having to glance up periodically at the mantle to reassure myself that it wasn’t some delirious fantasy, but awake. So herein my promised longer post about the weekend:

First off, mad props to Mary Robinette Kowal, Jane Jewell, Russell Davis, Michael Capobianco, Steven H Silver, Peggy Rae Sapienza, and all the volunteers who worked so hard to make Nebula Weekend fabulous and kept everyone fed, feted, entertained, and happy. Y’all are wonderful and did an amazing job.

Arrived on Thursday at 10PM at Cocoa Beach, FL after a ten-hour drive. It would’ve been shorter, but we decided to stop for a quickie dinner which turned into a 1.5-hour non-quickie affair. We didn’t have a room in the Hilton, the host hotel, for Thursday and Jane Jewell had arranged for us to crash on a couch in the condo complex next door with her and Mary Robinette Kowal that night. But when we arrived and met up with Mary at registration, Laura Anne Gilman, who was also staying Thursday night at the condo, insisted Matthew and I take her bed while she took the couch. Laura Anne = Goddess Of Gracious Generosity.

Friday morning after breakfast in the hospitality suite, which was stocked all weekend with vittles and caffeine and luminaries of SF, everyone assembled in the Hilton’s lobby to await the buses to take us to the Kennedy Space Center’s Banana Creek viewing site for the shuttle launch. The Banana Creek viewing site is 2.5 miles from either pad and is where VIPs and astronauts’ families can watch shuttle launches; we were able to be there thanks to Michael Capobianco, who contrived to snag a limited number of VIP passes.

There was a slight mix-up in times, with NASA’s “we send buses” and SFWA’s “we expect buses” being an hour off, but I didn’t care. It gave me a chance to meet/catch-up/hang out with folks like Rachel Swirsky, Catherynne Valente, Ted Kosmatka, Lee Martindale, Ann Crispin, and David D. Levine. Actually, one of the great things about Nebula Weekend was having the opportunity to meet folks I’ve only interacted with online or via email and to catch-up with folks who I only get to see at events like this.

Buses came, drive to viewing site was chok full o’ thrum of excited anticipation, animated chatter, science geeking, and obligatory “there is always an inherent risk at shuttle launches … hydrochloric acid cloud, falling debris, etc. etc.” disclaimer/warning from our guide.

Approaching the NASA center on the bus.

Spent a couple hours looking at the displays at the Saturn V Center:

And hanging out in the cafe before trooping out to the bleachers, hiding beneath hat and parasol from the blazing Florida sun for another hour, and then…magic.

Shuttle launches are loud. From where we were, the roar was loud enough to feel. And the color of the flames from the rocket is brighter and oranger than anything you’ll see captured in pictures or video. It was magnificent and moving, yet over so fast—a little over two minutes from ignition to can’t-see-it-anymore.

I was surprised at how strongly it affected me. I knew I’d be excited and thrilled, but my heart started racing like I was sprinting full out, and I was shaking and on the verge of tears. Seeing Atlantis blasting into the heavens was one of those highlights of my life moments. And I recorded the whole thing on my Droid.

After the launch, we got back to the Hilton in time to check into our room, shower, change, and bolt down a quick dinner at the hospitality suite before scampering off to the mass book signing.

Marianne Dyson, Jeffrey A. Carver, Me.
(Photo by Keith Stokes)

As I expected, there were few folks interested in my siggy, but I got a chance to catch up with the fabulous Jeffrey Carver, a talented and accomplished writer, an all-around great fellah, and one of my fellow Launch Pad 2007 classmates. (Also saw fellow Launch Padee Jerry Oltion earlier that day, but didn’t get as much chance to chat with him.)

After the signing, we made our way to the pool deck for the Nebula honorees and nominees reception, where Author Emeritus Neal Barrett, Jr., gave a touching and delightful speech and presented all the nominees with our official nominee certificates and pins:

I had a sharp jolt of “OMG, this is real” going up to accept mine. Managed to make it up the stairs, shake hands, and back down again without doing a face plant. But stood there shaking for a while on the deck afterward, clutching certificate and pin.

Saturday was my panel with Laura Anne Gilman, Cynthia Felice, and Marilyn Kosmatka—which I didn’t know was going to be live cast until we arrived at the room.

(Photo by Keith Stokes)

After it I sequestered myself away in the hotel room for an hour or so in a state of panicky optimism, jotting down an acceptance speech which I was certain I wouldn’t need but just in case, so I wouldn’t forget to thank anyone—not that I’d need it or anything, right?

And then it was off to the pre-banquet reception, the banquet, and the award ceremonies. Tuxes, formal wear, and evening gowns. Cat Valente’s dress was to die for, as were Liz Gorinsky’s, and Mary Kowal’s. Glamorous and beautiful.

Matthew and I got to share a table with the lovely Sarah Beth Durst, an Andre Norton Award nominee for her novel, Ice, Adam Troy-Castro and his lovely wife, Judy Castro, and Johnny Atomic and Ken Chapman of League Entertainment, who provided the Grand Master and Author Emeritus gifts.

Adam Troy-Castro and Judy Castro

Sarah Beth Durst

Allen Steele was an eloquent toastmaster, and Grand Master Joe Haldeman and Author Emeritus Neal Barrett, Jr., were funny and sweet and poignant by turns. David Levine’s keynote presentation on his “vacation to Mars” was fascinating and funny, and David is a masterful presenter (and an amazing writer, btw). His talk gave me a much-needed break and distraction from the jitters. I regret that I wasn’t able to make his Q&A about it on Sunday due to a frantic dash to pack and check out before the we-charge-you-more-after-11 hotel deadline.

And then came the awards.

Most of it is a blur. Y’know how accident victims often don’t remember what happened immediately before and after their trauma? I think I can understand how the brain can just go “Agh! No way! Overload imminent! Shutting down now.” But in a good way. I remember hearing them announce the novelette nominees. And I remember the sound of the envelope crackling as Jack McDevitt opened it. And then I remember him saying, “And the winner is: Sinner, Baker–”

After that, I somehow ended up onstage behind the podium, clutching my note card with my acceptance speech scribbled on it (and so very, VERY glad I had written one), looking out at the room full of people. And the only thing I could think of to say was “Wow.” (I said that a lot that night.) I realized that “wow” was not going to cut it as an acceptance speech and subsequently babbled something undoubtedly inane and/or incomprehensible, at which point I had gathered back just enough of my wits to figure out I really needed to stick to what I had on the card.

I *think* I managed to read the card okay. I hope so. I seem to recall hearing the click of my brain engaging its autopilot mode and begin converting the text into words. Then Jack McDevitt was handing me this stunningly gorgeous chunk of Lucite with my name on it, and I wobbled my way back to the table, hugged Matthew, and promptly burst into tears of joy.

(Photo by Keith Stokes)

Winning the Nebula Award was another of those massive, amazing, incredible highlights of my life moments.

Two in one weekend. Wow.

(Photo by astein142)

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