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The news is out: I won the Year 2000 John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. I'm still aquiver with excitement.
I remember going to the John W. Campbell Nominee panel at Balticon in 1998, watching the year's nominees discussing their chances and their aspirations, and just lusting after a seat on that panel. This year, I got it. When I checked in at the convention, I got a "Hugo Nominee" ribbon for my badge, and a little silver rocketship pin. As I pinned on the pin, I felt my heart skip in my chest -- it became real then.
Being a Campbell nominee at a WorldCon is a dose of fast celebrity. People shake your hands in the halls and wish you good luck, camera crews shoot your fumbling words. There's an uneasy camaraderie with the other nominees, a ritual wishing of luck and a gut-check with every handshake, a consideration of their substantial credentials and charisma and momentary certainty that you don't have a chance.
I bought a tux for the ceremony. I meant to rent one, but as I walked to the rental place in Toronto to get measured, I passed a menswear place that was having a post-prom sale on tuxes, cheaper than a day's rental. My business partner, Grad Conn, owns two tuxes, and he had counselled me to buy a tux as an affirmation -- I took his advice, nervous giggles escaping my chest as they measured me for alterations.
I couldn't take the reception -- I was so keyed up, I was ready to faint. David Hartwell invited me down to the bar for six dollar Perriers and cigarettes. I chained two butts, and calmed down some. Made it back upstairs just in time to get my picture taken with the other nominees, and then it was time to find our seats in the auditorium.
I barely managed to sit through the ceremony. As we drew closer and closer to the Campbell announcement, I grew surer and surer that I had lost. The competition was amazing and daunting: Shane Tourtellote, who appears in nearly every issue of Analog; Ellen Klages, whose one published story is so spectacular that it got a Hugo and a Nebula nomination and who, incidentally, is instantly and wonderfully charming; Kristine Smith, who has sold three novels and Thomas Harlan, who's sold four (I only just wrote my first).
And then I won. I felt like I was going to faint. I barely made it to the stage. I delivered my speech, my ears roaring. When I got off the stage, I was laughing hysterically, clutching my award. James Patrick Kelly, one of my Clarion instructors and the winner of a this year's Hugo for Best Novellette, had just collected his award and waited behind in case I won. I threw myself into his arms and walked back to my seat. By the time I got there, my two-way email pager was already buzzing. Audience members had seen my speech, followed the URL, and sent me congradulatory email. I used the pager to spam everyone I know with the news, and the pager buzzed all night long with congratulations.
The Hugo winners, September 2, 2000
I'm the one with the big, shit-eating grin. Photo from Locus Online.
Winning the Campbell is like being the belle of the ball. What followed was a blur of parties and handshakes and hugs, agents sitting me down for serious talks about my future, editors asking me when they can expect to see a submission from me, fans flocking around me and telling me how much they liked my speech. I carried my plaque everywhere I went, woke up the next morning with my arm curled in the plaque-carrying position.
I'm still walking on air.
You know, if there's one person who I left off my thanks speech that really deserves recognition, it's Jim Van Pelt, the terrific writer who started the Campbell Awards site a few years ago, prompting me to built this site so he'd have something to link to. Thanks, Jim.