Nebula Conference 2016, Chicago

by Cat Rambo, SFWA President

John Hodgman & Cat Rambo

Toastmaster John Hodgman with Cat Rambo

What was it like? Like getting to co-host at one of the most awesome weekend-long parties ever, but one with all sorts of interesting conversations full of stuff that was genuinely useful to my career interspersed at intervals.

I write this amid a welter of notes, business cards, and obligations/opportunities acquired over the course of what was, for me, the best Nebula weekend I have ever attended. Part of that was the number of attendees who came up to express their appreciation of the programming, the award ceremony, the events, the overflowing book bags, the volunteers, the Nebulas issue of the Bulletin, the volunteer breakfast, and even with the way that they think SFWA has been going over the course of the last year. That is, to put it mildly, most gratifying, and is among the reasons I returned from Chicago renewed, refreshed, and re-enthused. A little under a year of my two-year presidential term lies behind me; I’m curious to see how much can be achieved in the next year.

Thank you to everyone who attended, both in person or virtually by spreading the word and retweeting. It was a weekend that was full of wonderful community and a chance to connect with new and old friends. There were so many moments that will live in my heart, including:

  • Acceptance speeches that made me weepy, such as Sarah Pinsker’s assertion that “this is the best of all possible timelines.” I agree.
  • Amazing alternate universe acceptance speeches from the other nominees that showed the sort of camaraderie and sportsmanship that inspires us all. I particularly loved Eugene Fischer’s speech, made from deep in the underground warrens, urging us all to believe with him that someday we would see the sun again.
  • Getting to give a SFWA Grandmaster Award to C.J. Cherryh. I mean. Holy smokes. Holy. Smokes. I’ll be thrilled all my life for that.
  • Jane Fancher, C. J. Cherryh’s partner, with tiny Bren.
  • While I greatly enjoyed all of the works on the ballot, I will admit I had some favorites, and getting to talk to authors Naomi Kritzer, Tamsyn Muir, and Martin J. Shoemaker was very special.
  • The stellar programming assembled by Mary Robinette Kowal and her team. I enjoyed all the panels that I was on or attended, and really appreciated all the “Ask an Expert” panels and chances to network with other industry professionals. While we can still improve, every piece of criticism was offered in a lovely “this was awesome, here’s how it could be even better” spirit that was refreshing in these sometimes acrimonious times.
  • The SFWA volunteer breakfast. The volunteers are what keeps the organization going, and it was very important to me that the board and staff get a chance to acknowledge some of you in person. Thank you so much for all you have done and continue to do.
  • Cards by Walter Day.
  • Getting to hear John Hodgman say, among many other funny things, “Thank goodness the Storm Trooper showed up.” Also watching him almost give SFWA Operations Director Kate Baker a heart attack by pretending he was going to drop his globe.
  • The Radio SFWA synchronized dancing, written, choreographed, and organized by the lovely and talented Henry Lien. So. Much. Fun. Also now everyone else gets to share the earworm.
  • Everyone who took the time to sit down with me and talk about the organization and what they want to see over the coming years.
  • The Autographing Session, where we had an amazing total of 86 (!) authors signing.
  • The fabulous receptions sponsored by our wonderful sponsors, who included Daw, Kobo, Saga, and Tor.
  • cards

    Cards by Walter Day.

    The lovely trading cards created by Walter Day, which came in the jam-packed swag bags. I also freely pillaged the book swap table, to the point where I shipped my bag home via UPS rather than try to take it on the plane. Extra books were sent to literacy organization Project Outreach (I believe that was the name I was told, but that may not be right.)

  • Getting to hear the game writing vote results announced by the ever-awesome Fran Wilde, whose book Updraft just happened to take the Norton Award Home.
  • Seeing the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award gong to Sir Terry Pratchett.
  • Getting a copy of the new SFWA Bulletin’s Nebula issue. I saw several people using these as autograph books for the autographing session on Saturday night.
  • All the beautiful outfits on awards night, although Alyssa Wong absolutely took the overall prize for sheer glittering fabulosity.
  • Meeting so many SFWA members, both new and old, and getting to hear that overall, you guys think we’re doing pretty well. Thank you for the feedback and the many generous offers of assistance. I will indeed be in touch with all of you.

 

bookswap

One of the the three book swap tables. Yow!

For me, so much of the weekend was a reaffirmation of joy in our genre and the worlds that we love, worlds created by some of the best and brightest. Opportunity to talk with so many talented, kind, and outstanding members of the industry. A chance to stand by one of my heroes, someone whose work I’ve read most of my life and who has been one of my role models, and see her body of work recognized. A chance to be in a place where people treated each other with respect as peers and took pride in each other’s accomplishments, where there weren’t the sort of meanspiritness and petty behaviors that belong on the playground rather than among fellow professionals. A chance to tell people some of what SFWA’s been working hard at in the past year, and some of what’s coming down the pike.

Here’s some of my favorite Nebula write-ups:

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