The first time I became aware of the Nebula award — the official literary prize of the Science Fiction Writers of America — was in 1989 when I read Orson Scott Card’s two novels, Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. The covers of those paperbacks were emblazoned with the words, NEBULA AWARD WINNER on one corner, and HUGO AWARD WINNER on the other corner. Wow, I said to myself, I don’t know what those are, but they sound pretty cool. And because the books themselves were engrossing and entertaining, I guessed after-the-fact that the Nebula and Hugo wins were well-deserved. Thus I started paying attention to the Hugo and the Nebula as markers of exceptional quality. Which did not always bear out — taste being taste, not everything with a Hugo or a Nebula to its name will match your appetite. But because of the large number of books and stories published professionally each year, to earn a Hugo or a Nebula is a rather remarkable thing. A badge of competence and excellence, as it were.
So I am very pleased to announce that my novelette, “Ray of Light,” which was the cover story of the December 2011 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine — with cover art from Hugo winner Bob Eggleton — has been posted to the final ballot for items published in 2011, for its respective category. There was a time not long ago when I wondered if I would ever be published — period. It took many years (and many humblings) before I was able to attain my goal. Those things have taught me to value the successes when they come, both large and small. So I am quite glad to have earned the respect and enthusiasm of enough SFWA members that “Ray of Light” now competes with a rather elite group of fiction — while being featured on a grand roll call of some rather talented, extraordinary, and hard-working writers.
I want to especially congratulate some of the current nominees whom I consider to be friends and/or fellow travelers: Mary Robinette Kowal, Jake Kerr, Adam-Troy Castro, Rachel Swirsky, Ferret Steinmetz, Tom Crosshill, Nancy Fulda, and Aliette de Bodard. I was able to meet most of these people for the first time at the 2011 Superstars Writing Seminar, or last year’s Nebula awards weekend — when my friend Eric James Stone won his Nebula award for his Analog story, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Has Made,” — or at World Science Fiction Convention in Reno, Nevada. Those I have yet to meet, I know fairly well due to our chatting in the on-line social fora.
Tom Crosshill’s Nebula nomination, for his story, “Mama, We Are Zhenya, Your Son,” is especially noteworthy in that Tom and I were both winners in the 26th annual Writers of the Future contest. I’m not shy about expressing my admiration for Tom’s skill and subtlety as a writer, and while I very much expected him to be on a Nebula ballot soon after our attending the WOTF workshop and gala in Los Angeles, I did not expect both of us to be sharing a ballot in the same year — thankfully for different categories, otherwise I’d have to declare Tom’s piece the out-and-out superior story, and recuse myself entirely from the ballot! (grin)
I also want to congratulate Carolyn Ives Gilman. She doesn’t know me, but in 2008 I was still a struggling, unpublished author trying to figure out how to take my stories from, “almost good enough,” to “really damned good!” I read Carolyn’s story “Arkfall” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and was so overwhelmingly pleased with it, I swore to myself one day I too would write stories with such scope, emotional impact, and reader satisfaction. When I then sat down to write my stories, “Outbound,” and, “Exanastasis,” I had “Arkfall” percolating in the back of my mind. Not the specifics of the story as much as the emotional power and resonance. “Outbound,” would become my first Finalist with Writers of the Future, while “Exanastasis,” went on to win Writers of the Future — with “Outbound” going on to sell to Analog magazine, and attain that publication’s AnLab (readers’ choice) award for the 2010 calendar year; a high honor for a first-time Analog author! So I am definitely happy to share the ballot with Carolyn, who has been quite influential in my progress from almost-pro to Nebula-nominee-pro.
If anyone wants to read “Ray of Light,” the bulk of the story is still available for free on the Analog web site. I think Dell Magazines may make the entire story free once news of the Nebula nominations gets around — the more people able to read a thing, the more likely it is that thing will have a fighting chance to win enough votes during the final prize tally.
Many, many, many thanks to all the members of SFWA who saw fit to give “Ray of Light” their nod of approval. I have a lot of friends and mentors who helped get me onto the ballot, but I like to think that the story won them over first and foremost. Like Eric James Stone’s, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made,” my novelette, “Ray of Light,” was an assignment story that came out of a Lincoln City workshop run by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, featuring editors Denise Little and John Helfers. The story got good marks from the workshop panel, the other workshop attendees, and it sold immediately to my editor Stan Schmidt at Analog. Stan liked it so much, in fact, he put it front-and-center on the December 2011 issue, with a marvelous and fantastic cover painting by Bob Eggleton.
My humble and most heartfelt gratitude to one and all!