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Saturday 17 April 2004

Nebula Awards Winners

Standing: Ann Crispin; Elizabeth Moon; Michael Capobianco; Greg Bear; seated, L. Timmel Duchamp (accepting for Karen Joy Fowler); Harlan Ellison (accepting for Neil Gaiman); Robert Silverberg; Alexandra Bear (accepting for The Two Towers); Ellen Datlow (holding Jeffrey Ford's award)

Winners of the 2003 Nebula Awards were announced at a banquet Saturday evening, April 17, in Seattle, Washington.

  • The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon (Ballantine)
  • Coraline, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)
  • "The Empire of Ice Cream", Jeffrey Ford (Sci Fiction, 26 Feb 2003)
  • "What I Didn't See", Karen Joy Fowler (Sci Fiction 10 Jul 2002)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair & Peter Jackson (New Line Cinema; based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien)
  • Other awards, as previously announced, were presented: the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award was given to Robert Silverberg, and the Service to SFWA Awards were presented to Ann Crispin and Michael Capobianco.

    Of Nebula Award winners, only Elizabeth Moon was present to accept her award; Silverberg, Crispin, and Capobianco were also present to accept their awards. Prominent non-SFWA members in attendance included Microsoft Vice President Rick Rashid and CEO Jeff Bezos.

    The evening was launched by Nebula Awards Weekend organizer Astrid Anderson Bear (who was thanked several times during the evening), who introduced the evening's toastmaster, Neal Stephenson. Stephenson, currently bald, exhibited droll humor and his famous sunny disposition while describing his method for assuring that awards recipients would not exceed a reasonable length of time for expressing their thanks: a toaster, and a loaf of Wonder Bread.

    Stephenson led a 30-second period of silence to honor 30 of the dead who have passed on over the past year.

    Stephenson then introduced Keynote Speaker Rick Rashid, Senior Vice-President of Microsoft Research, whose speech, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future...", was ironically marred by difficulty synchronizing the laptop-based PowerPoint presentation with the auditorium's video projector--the video clips embedded in his slides would not display. ("That's why I use a typewriter," called out Harlan Ellison from the audience.) Rashid's speech addressed the difficulties that visionaries have had in predicting the future, and then described some of the real projects that Microsoft has in development, including Automated Question Answering (asking "What is the meaning of life?" brings answers including "Questions" and "42"), TerraServer, MathPad, and various kinds of Smart Personal Objects, including a prototype device that serves as a phone in one configuration, and then when flipped over and unhinged, becomes a PDA device.

    Stephenson introduced Sheila Finch, who in turn brought Robin Wayne Bailey to the podium, to co-present the Service to SFWA Award to Michael Capobianco and Ann Crispin. Capobianco admitted suggesting the initiation of this award back in '95, never imagining that he might one day be a recipient; Crispin thanked Victoria Strauss and Charles Petit for their help with the SFWA Writer Beware website. Since their awards were not yet ready, a cake was presented in their stead, which was subsequently served in the hospitality suite later that evening.

    Catherine Asaro, recalling her own reading history, then introduced Harlan Ellison, who provided the highlight of the evening by presenting the Grand Master Award to Robert Silverberg. Ellison described his 51 years of friendship and association with Silverberg (another encomium is printed in the latest issue of the SFWA Bulletin, distributed to banquet attendees) and then brought to the stage a trio of female singers, a group named A Capella Go, who sang "Unforgettable" in Silverberg's direction. (A song whose lyrics end with "it's incredible / That someone so unforgettable / Thinks that I am unforgettable too".)

    Silverberg came to the podium to accept his award, admitting that he had expected a roast, suggesting that with friends like Harlan he had never bothered to make enemies, alluding to his adolescent fantasies ("this fulfills the other one"), and recalling in leisurely detail his early successes, including his 1956 Hugo Award as Most Promising New Author, his advice from Lester del Rey (don't settle for making quick money--writing better will bring more money in the long run), his reflection on the writers who died too early to receive the Grand Master Award (Sturgeon, Dick, Blish, Dickson, Brunner, Zelazny, Sheffield), and his thanks for those who were important to his own success (Ellison, Randall Garrett, Lester del Rey, agent Ralph Vicinanza, and wife Karen Haber). Finally he recalled the 1987 banquet when Isaac Asimov received his Grand Master Award and wouldn't let Silverberg get too close. "You have to wait 15 years!" cried Asimov. It's been 17, but Silverberg forgives him.

    The Nebula Awards proper began with Leslie What presenting the short story category. Confessing that she hadn't been able to find any jokes to tell about short stories, she read the nominees and announced the winner as Karen Joy Fowler's "What I Didn't See". (The story's win was ironic, or perhaps poetically just, considering the controversy following its publication over whether it was SF or fantasy at all.) L. Timmel Duchamp accepted, reading a statement from Fowler thanking Sci Fiction editor Ellen Datlow, the Sycamore Hill writing workshop gang, and the memory of James Tiptree, Jr., whose 1973 story "The Women Men Don't See" inspired Fowler's story.

    Connie Willis presented the novelette award, after resisting the temptation to torture the audience, or torture Harlan Ellison. She described the novelette as the perfect length for science fiction--"just right", in Goldilocks' words--and then by way of example read a long list of phrases and short passages from the 39 previous Nebula novelette winners. Finally she announced the winner as Jeffrey Ford's "The Empire of Ice Cream". Gordon Van Gelder accepted, reading a speech from Ford in which he expressed his debt of gratitude to Sci Fiction editor Ellen Datlow.

    Richard Chwedyk, last year's novella winner, made a "surgically brief" presentation of this year's award to Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Accepting for Gaiman was Harlan Ellison, who read (adopting a BBC accent) a letter from Gaiman that he had promised faithfully to read every word of. Gaiman has posted his acceptance speech in his online journal (scroll down several screens); the speech takes delight in the prospect of making Harlan say, literally, anything. (Elsewhere online, Cory Doctorow's has blogged the acceptance speech that Eileen Gunn would have read had his novelette "0wnz0red" won.)

    (Gaiman's Coraline, now having won 5 awards--previously it won the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, and British SF Association awards--ranks among the top 9 stories that have won more awards than any others. See What short works have won the most awards overall?, last updated earlier this year.)

    Neal Stephenson invited Greg Bear to the stage to present the Nebula for Best Script, taking the opportunity to return several nonfiction books he had borrowed from Bear years before. Bear announced the winner as The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The award was accepted by Bear's daughter Alexandra Bear, who read a letter from the scriptwriters, now busy at work on King Kong.

    SFWA President Catherine Asaro presented the award for Best Novel to Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark, a result that provoked cheers from members of the audience. Moon said she didn't think she had a chance of winning, but decided to prepare an acceptance speech just in case. She thanked first of all her autistic son, who inspired her to write the book though it is not directly about him; his therapist; her agent Joshua Bilmes; her editor Shelly Shapiro, who saved the book from its original ending; and all the people who have been touched by her book.

    — Mark R. Kelly

    — —

    SFWA's Nebula Awards 2004 page compiles links to other Nebula banquet reports online, including photos taken by Derryl Murphy.


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