Nebula Awards 2008 took place in Austin, TX on April 24-27. Being in Texas, the award ceremony had to have some Texas flavor, and that was amply supplied by the MC John Moore and the toastmaster Joe Lansdale. Moore started by explaining Texas dialect to the out-of-state folks. He said, "in Texas you don't say 'I'm going to have a glass of wine', you say 'I'm fixing to mosey down to Hospitality Suite and rustle up a Shiner Bock'. And right now I'm fixing to introduce our toastmaster. He's a kick-ass Texas writer, and I mean it literally: he founded a school of martial arts."
Joe Lansdale's speech was the highly anticipated highlight of the award ceremony. Everyone in the Texas fandom knows Lansdale is pretty damn funny. And his speech was funny indeed, although a bit rambling. I managed to remember a couple of anecdotes Joe told; for the sake of brevity, I'll compress the details which, in my opinion, didn't add much to the story. (Though what do I know? Perhaps readers adore Joe Lansdale precisely because of those details I consider rambly.)
His point was that Texas is such a weird place it can't help but inspire science fiction. Here is an incident that happened to him and an even stranger one, to another Texas writer. Lansdale also listed his rules for the attendees of science fiction conventions.
(Later at the ArmadilloCon 2008 Joe Lansdale told more stories from his life on the Campfire Stories panel. They can be found in my blog post.
Michael Moorcock, who was bestowed a title of SFWA grandmaster, had his own funny stories to tell about life in Texas -- and why he likes it here.
Pictures from the Nebula awards can be found in my photo gallery.
Connie Willis and Barry Longyear at the Friday night autographing. More pictures can be found in my photo gallery
If you live in Texas long enough, bizarre things will surely happen to you. This true story happened Joe Lansdale long ago, when his son was 4 years old and phones had cords attached to them. One morning he heard a knock on the door. He opened it and a lady was standing there. She wore a wool cap pulled down to her ears, a heavy coat and galoshes -- and it was about 110 degrees outside. She asked, can I use your phone, it's an emergency? So he let her. From what he could tell, the woman called her mother, and as she talked, she grew more and more agitated. Next thing Joe's son says: "Daddy, wook!" "And so I wooked," said Joe -- and the lady was on the floor having a fit. He tried to help any way he knew (make sure she doesn't bite her tongue, etc.) -- and the woman's mother was still yakking on the phone! He hung up and called an ambulance. Then he went out into the front yard, and there was a bunch of people standing there, who he didn't know. One of them, a lady with a big Bible under her arm, asked, is there a strange lady at your house who asked to use the phone and then had a fit? Joe said, yes, she's here having a fit right now. Then the ambulance came, and one of the paramedics asked, man, are you a writer? Let me tell you about my book! Joe admitted he was a writer, but this is really not a good time, let's just get this lady out of here! So the paramedics put her on a stretcher and threw it in the ambulance. They didn't gently lift her, they literally tossed her in. Then they told Joe, she does it all the time. Goes to people's houses, asks to use their phone, and has a seizure.
This was so bizarre Joe started to think of it as a science fiction story. Was the epileptic lady perhaps an alien? The crowd of people who came after her -- were they aliens too? Were they hunting her? Etcetera. So this is how life in Texas inspires a science fiction writer.
Lansdale is not the only one who owes his muse to the weird experiences in his life. He mentioned another Austin SF writer, named Neal (Barrett, perhaps? I didn't catch his last name) who had weird things happen to him all his life. For example, this incident happened to him when he was 5 years old. That year his dad said he had a special Christmas present for him. He told him to look under the Christmas tree. There was a toy house. Dad said, there is this tiny door. "Slide it open!" Neal slid the door open, and a white puppy ran out... and proceeded to bite him in a face. The puppy then chased the father around the tree, biting him too. It turned out to be rabid. As a Christmas present both father and son got a series of shots in the belly.
Oh, and here are Lansdale's rules for SF conventions. (The list is incomplete -- I was writing them down as fast as I could.)
Cheryl Ducoin and Bruce Sterling at the Friday night autographing. More pictures can be found in my photo gallery
Then the winners in all categories were announced, and gave their acceptance speeches. Or if they were not here in person, other people read their speeches for them. Needless to say, I wasn't surprised that J. K. Rowling wasn't here to collect her Andre Norton award, and that she did not even send an acceptance speech (or perhaps she did and it just wasn't memorable). I was just as unsurprised that Guillermo del Toro did not come to receive his award for "Pan's Labyrinth". But at least he sent a short speech that was (perhaps facetiously) humble. He said he was honored to have his work recognized by science fiction pros, and added, so can I say now that I'm one of you? Can I? Can I? (Hmm, I thought, for someone so desperate to be counted as "one of us", he could have come to the ceremony, no? ;-) But of course it was all in good jest.)
The best acceptance speech -- or the best line, IMHO -- came from Karen Joy Fowler (short story award winner), who said she had a lot of friends in the Austin fandom and was thrilled to come back and visit them. So she did not even need the award -- she was already having a very good day!
Michael Moorcock and John Picacio at the Friday night autographing. More pictures can be found in my photo gallery
No amount of praise was spared for Michael Moorcock, who was inaugurated into the ranks of SFWA Grandmasters. Then he gave an acceptance speech, which (I'm rushing to pull on my asbestos underwear :-)) I found as unmemorable as any of his books. I've read three of those before giving up. Moorcock's speech still did not inspire me to read his prose. So shoot me. I think he was saying something about those dark ages when science fiction was despised by the society-at-large, and when the mainstream media viewed SF writers and fans as "geeks with slide rules for genitals" -- the only phrase I remember from his talk. :-)
Moorcock also told this amusing anecdote from his early days in Texas (decades ago?). At a neighborhood bar he once admitted that he voted socialist in the last election. Suddenly the room got very quiet. An 8-foot guy with a cowboy hat wide enough to cover a few New England states walked out from behind the bar. Moorcock was just hoping the guy would consider it too uncool to kill him. But the guy came up to him, slapped his arm around Michael's shoulder, and said: "Mike, you're a true Texan!"
And that's an example of why Moorcock likes Texas. Because here, as he said, having balls is more important than what your convictions are.