The last time the Nebula Awards presented by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) were held in Los Angeles was 2001. That was a treasured evening in my memory, also coordinated by one of the world’s most special and gifted people, Christine Valada. The Grand Master Award was presented to Philip Jose Farmer by Harlan Ellison that evening. I believe that Ray Bradbury presented the Ray Bradbury Award (which is a marvelous trophy – very Ray Bradburyish) to Harlan Ellison. The super-elegant Neil Gaiman was emcee; it was an incredible evening. I had tears in my eyes much of the time, because I never thought I’d be sitting in the same room with these people who had touched my life so greatly. Such was the case with the 2008 Nebula Awards (presented in Spring, 2009) on the UCLA campus Saturday, April 25.
You have to be patient because these are my cell phone pictures, and though I wasn’t sitting far away, there’s only so much I could do! This depicts the marvelous Tim Powers accepting the new Solstice Award, on behalf of Algis “A.J.” Budrys who died this past year. The “House-like” gentleman with the quizzical expression is Russell Davis, SFWA’s President, who along with the rest of us on the SFWA board has agreed to serve another term. You cannot really see Janis Ian, the emcee – she is a very petite lady and she is the barely-visible head to Russell’s left; Russell’s about 6 feet tall.
Janis composed a song for the event that everyone instantly adored based on her original hit “At Seventeen,” but which included so many SF/Fnal images, story titles, places, times and characters that everyone by the end was completely thrilled and gave her a standing ovation.
The highlight of the evening for those of us at BVC overall was perhaps not so much of a surprise considering that its author has already received SFWA’s Grant Master Award. Powers, by Ursula K. Le Guin, the third book in her Western Shore series, was awarded best novel to great acclamation.
Here is the overall list of awardees:
Novel – Powers – Ursula K. Le Guin
Novella – “The Spacetime Pool” – Catherine Asaro
Novelette – “Pride and Prometheus” – John Kessel
Short Story – “Trophy Wives” – Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Script – “WALL-E”
Andre Norton Award – Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) – Ysabeau S. Wilce
Other awards given:
A.J. Budrys — Solstice Award (Tim Powers accepted)
M.J. Engh — Author Emerita
Marty Greenberg — Solstice Award
Harry Harrison — Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master
Joss Whedon — Ray Bradbury Award
Kate Wilhelm — Solstice Award (Joe Haldeman accepted)
SFWA Service Award – Victoria Strauss, from Writer Beware
Joss Whedon was scheduled to attend for quite some time, but at the last minute dropped out due to filming in Canada. Therefore, he sent this video acceptance speech, which everyone also loved (esp. Scott Edelman):
To me, however, the most emotional moment of the evening was Robert Silverberg’s presentation of the Grand Master Award to Harry Harrison.
This was a gorgeous presentation that made me, once again, proud to be a fi-sci writer (thanks, Joss). Many times, I felt my eyes misting up as he simply stated truths about the way things were when the giants of our field were young. Harry had been a comic book writer and had gained “control” of what seemed like a zillion short-lived pulp magazines in 1953, and he contacted Robert Silverberg and asked him to write a nonfiction article about “fandom.” He definitely paid him well: $30, which covered the convention attendance for a motley crew of three or four, which included Harlan and somebody else equally legendary.
Every time I see or listen to Bob Silverberg, the word “elegant” and “simple” come to mind – I think that it’s often overlooked – the difference between some of the people who are pushed forward from time to time, and those who really are “for the ages.”
The other theme of the night, from fantastic keynote speaker Chuck Lorre’s return to Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles being the book with which his sister’s boyfriend – “Cross-Eyed Larry”, I think – bribed him out of their hair, or at least out of his way temporarily) to Janis’ song to most all of the other presenters and awardees, was Ray Bradbury.
As someone who’s been compared to “Ray Bradbury on real SF” – whatever that means! – since I’ve certainly been told I’m not smart enough to write “real SF”!, I share in these feelings. The first science fiction book I was given was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I didn’t see this book as “sci fi” and don’t think I was even aware of such a term at the time. I just watched Star Trek reruns after school (being too young when the original was on in prime time – it was my slightly-older cousin’s favorite show). By the time I hit junior high, I knew what sci fi was, and my favorite author was Ray Bradbury, whose stories seemed amazingly real to me. Ray had spoken at least three times in our area and at our local library, and I had been taken to see him twice. So I have to say, one of my biggest early inspirations was also Ray Bradbury, and of course, continuing constantly, all the time, to this day.
And to borrow a Blaylock, “I’ll just close by saying . . .” that I felt not a shred of resentment, only admiration and gratitude, that Harry Harrison received his well-deserved recognition as a Grand Master of science fiction and fantasy. For, on a somewhat long-ago Southern California night studying at the dorm at my then-boyfriend’s school, Harvey Mudd College, I got the gumption to admit to my boyfriend, top engineering student and BIIIIGGG Harry Harrison fan (had all the Stainless Steel Rat books), “Pete, I think I want to be a science fiction writer . . .”
He looked over the top of his calculus book or whatever giant thing it was and said, “But you have to be smart to be a sci fi writer.”
So, like yeah.
You know – “Perfect Stranger” and “To Kiss the Star” are both science fiction stories. The technologies in each are either in-use right now, or continue in testing and development (with the exception of Mel’s spaceship of course) – I meant the realistic medical treatments, prosthesis and techniques – even Mel’s “glasses” so she can see.
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