What I learned from attending the 2015 Nebula Awards
I just returned from the Nebulas. Wonderful to see so many of my old friends at the Awards ceremonies and receptions. I had to take second looks to recognize some of those old friends because they have literally become old (not just older, but real-world old) and now have grey or white hair and, in some cases, extra pounds around the middle or walk with the help of a cane or walker. It’s the ancient story of Cane and Able made flesh: we seniors need canes in order to be able to walk. Some of my old friends recognized me, and some didn’t. Esther Friesner bumped into me in the SFWA hospitality suite and said, “I know you. Where do I know you from?”
After a voluntary absence from major science fiction and fantasy publications for more than twenty-five years (although I did remain an active SFWA member and attended the 2005 Nebulas), none of the younger puppies (no relation to the sad or rabid puppies) recognized my face, my name, or my writing. I wasn’t really surprised because something similar happened when I attended the Stokers in Atlanta and Odyssey Con and Wiscon in Madison, so I prepared in advance to make new friends by handing out printed business cards and free pens.
Once or twice I even actively engaged in lively conversations with new writers. I’m the shy guy who prefers to sit in the shadows and listen to conversations and observe human (and inhuman) interactions. Lively conversations are not my forte, except when penning written dialogue. I was born with a physical speech defect and I get tongue-tied easily. Few people know that about me. I had corrective surgery as an infant, and I endured remedial speech classes at Rolling Green Elementary School from second through sixth grades. My speech handicap is one of the reasons for my extraordinary shyness.
I learned, at a very early age, to write rather than speak. My comfort zone is sitting behind a typewriter keyboard (now a computer keyboard) to communicate. When I get tongue-tied or stutter, I can easily edit it out of written words.
I can, of course, edit real-world spoken conversations. I acquired the necessary skill sets while completing research for my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertations in Ed Psych. I usually refrain from toying with people’s memories because I don’t think it’s ethical without informed consent. That’s the type of thing villains in my novels do.
Some of you know I am an accomplished hypnotist and NLP practitioner. I was Board Certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists and I taught hypnotism to students in my own school at the enTrance Center and in college-level classes. I helped people recall past-life memories and reframe memories from their current lives. It is ethical to use my skills for therapeutic purposes. I have mixed feelings about using them in sales and marketing, although I am aware they can be highly effective.
Some of the writers I encountered at the Nebulas do use, whether consciously or subconsciously, the same skills for marketing themselves and their fiction. Blake Hausladen is an expert at marketing his books. Richard Thomas, besides being a fine writer, is personable and friendly and promotes other writers, thereby promoting himself in the process. Many of the up-and-coming writers are primarily auditory, and they have excellent story-telling skills because they can translate everything they hear directly into words. Since I am primarily auditory-digital, I translate into symbols before I can translate into spoken words or words on paper. I often get locked into left-brain activity for ninety to one-hundred and thirty minutes where I am lost in thought and can’t respond automatically. I know how to overcome that limitation, but I must consciously choose to do so. It takes extra effort on my part. I’m not always willing to expend the extra effort.
But I did learn a lot from meeting and interacting with people at the Nebulas this year. I made new friends and renewed old acquaintances. I learned that name recognition and awards are even more important than most people believe.
I also learned that writers are readers and they buy books. But writers, like fans, buy books only from names they know. There are far too many books available to waste time and money on books that aren’t guaranteed good reads.
The value of awards—whether Nebulas, Stokers, Edgars, or Hugos—is they have been previously vetted by a large number of readers. Award winners are considered worth reading and knowing. I’m grateful I was able to rekindle (no pun intended, Amazon) relationships with former Nebula winners and get to know future award-winners. Thank you SFWA for the wonderful memories. It was worth every minute spent away from my keyboard.