Thanks to the very sweet Vonday McIntyre and Diane Turnshek, the mini-essay I wrote for the Nebulas on “The Language of Moths” has been replaced with the final version I’d settled on after revision help from Jackie M, who has the most incredible pink hair (saw her at Wiscon this weekend and had a good chat by the elevators about class and race issues, she’s one smarty, that one).
Just a quick post before I go back to my busy-busy mode. The Nebulas were an interesting experience, especially as I went not having entertained winning as a possibility for even a moment, and so this provided me with more of an anthropological view of the event. The hotel was snazzy and expensive, the drinks and beer way overpriced, the banquet food decent, the ceremony way too long, but interesting to be at for the first couple of hours, when I still had a lot of energy. The closer it got to midnight though, the more I wanted to put my head down and sleep. I’m glad I didn’t, because I got to see Jim Kelly win his first Nebula, which was like watching a mechanical wind-up toy that’s been wound really really tight go crazy as it ran across the floor and up the stairs of the stage. Also, when my name was announced in the novelette category, the good people at the Realms of Fantasy table sent up a little cheer for me. This made me smile and feel really good. There were some other interesting things to see too: presenters who either didn’t know how to pronounce simple names of nominees, even though they’re well-known in the field and have won many other awards, as well as presenters who left off naming some of the nominees at all. I thought this was a really avant garde demonstration of professionalism. Along with this, the Bulletin of SFWA printed my first draft of my essay on my novelette, rather than the corrected version that I revised here on my blog with the help of some smart readers, and of course they’ve posted it online as well. I wrote and asked if I could have the one online replaced at least with the revised essay, but this was days ago and no one has responded to me, so I guess my first draft is what will be etched in the records. Who said nothing was set in stone? 😉
I had a good time nonetheless, visiting old friends and acquaintances, eating a vast array of gorgeous meals in the city, attending my first KGB Fantastic Fiction reading series event, meeting my editor for the most amazing Japanese food I’ve had in many months and indulging in a pineapple-anise flavored sorbet, visiting my publisher’s offices near Columbus Circle and being amazed at how publishing offices actually look like how they’re portrayed in movies. I felt for several moments very much like a boy off a farm again, surrounded by those high walls of famous books published over the years by the various imprints of Random House and being told by a man behind a really high desk at the foyer to take the elevator to the twenty-fourth floor. This was really cool.
One of my highlights of the week was finding out I’d been a highlight of Peter Beagle’s Nebula weekend, as when he and I and Delia Sherman, all novelette nominees, were asked to take a picture together and introduced ourselves to each other, I nervously stuttered his name when I told him it was nice to meet him, then after the picture apologized because of my nerves. He was very gracious and said he had done the same thing years ago when he met Jessamyn West, and thought it was great that he got to be in the other position finally.
New York is one of my favorite cities in the world. There’s so much to do and see and eat and buy. I can’t wait to go back for another visit later this summer. But now in a few more days it’ll be time to go to Madison for Wiscon, and that’s another favorite little city in my register of favorite cities. Can’t wait to see more old friends and acquaintances there at the end of this week. I fly in on Friday morning. Everyone get ready to sing some karaoke and have a beer or two (or three).
I’m getting ready to head off to NYC for the Nebula Awards ceremony this weekend. I’m not nervous. I’m just excited to have been nominated. That’s a real honor in and of itself.
So this will be my last post for a while, unless I get a chance over the next week while I’m in the city to travel blog. I’ve made some changes to this website today. If you look in the sidebar column, you’ll find a section that houses links to my previous journals, as well as a link to my Flickr page. My friend Graham wanted to see more pictures of Millcreek Park and Youngstown, so I decided it’ll be easier for me to upload to Flickr in the future and can point to it if I upload any pictures of interest.
It’s full spring now, with a hint of summer as it approaches. I’m happy.
Abebooks.com has joined up with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to offer a chance for readers to win two tickets to the Nebula Awards Banquet in New York City this May 11th through the 13th. No travel is provided, but a two-night stay at the Marriot is included, so if you live in the Northeast especially you should give it a try. You have to answer a trivia question to answer, but google can answer anything, remember. Also there is a rules and regulations page, so click on that to make sure you’re eligible and doing it on time.
I’ll be at the ceremony, as I’m a nominee in the category of novelette, so I hope to see you there.
Congratulations to M. Rickert, whose first collection Map of Dreams is this year’s winner of the Crawford Award! The Crawford Award is given to a fantasy novelist whose first fantasy book was published during the preceding 18 months. It’s one of several awards presented by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, and is presented at the conference each March in Ft. Lauderdale.
Since Mary doesn’t have her own website or online journal (yet, I have plans to build one for her this summer) feel free to congratulate her here.
I’ve been asked to write a short essay on “The Language of Moths” for the Nebula Awards, which has placed me in the awkward position of talking about one of my own stories, which I don’t usually do, or like to do, for various reasons. This is my first stab at it, though.
*Revised with thanks to Jackie
The Language of “The Language of Moths”
Traditional fantasy holds up the natural world as better than the modern, postindustrial one we find ourselves living in these days. However, in writing “The Language of Moths”, it wasn’t a goal of mine to look backward into an agrarian past viewed by some as golden and pure. Instead I wanted to write about how language is a subjective matter, how even when people share a language, communication is often not achieved, how even within the traditional unit of the nuclear family, with its narrowly defined borders of membership, difference and otherness exists and is often misunderstood.
It’s possible to read the autistic girl, Dawn, in my story “The Language of Moths” as yet another magical fool in the history of fantasy archetypes. While writing it, she didn’t feel magical at all; for me she only spoke a different language from ours. If anything feels magical to me in this story, it’s the setting—more importantly, the relationship Dawn has with the setting—the place where she is able to understand the world around her for the first time in her life. Autistic authors who have found ways to bear witness to the conditions of their lives describe relationships with animals and nature that sound like utter fantasy but must be accepted as their reality. The autistic author Temple Grandin, for example, reported she could “see through a cow’s eyes,” which lead her to become an important designer of livestock restraint systems and slaughterhouses.
The language I used to write the story doesn’t reflect the unhappy circumstances of the characters. I used a more fanciful, florid language to emphasize the hopeful aspects of a story about characters who are dealing with many unfortunate life circumstances. I felt that a light-handed language could be interesting in contrast to events that might normally be portrayed with a starker language. It’s noted that, once the Carroll family returns home at the end of the story, Dawn, though able to make simple sentences depending on context and circumstances, is still not going to live a full life according to how we define that for “normal” people. There’s an elasticity and semi-meaninglessness to the social language of humans that surrounds her that’s never going to change for her. Dawn’s brother, Eliot, has been placed in therapy, that last-straw institution where people go to speak and be heard when no one else seems capable of hearing and comprehending them. Though there’s a promise that life will get better for Eliot in the future, he still has many years of unhappiness to endure before he finds what he needs. The father and mother continue on in their own lives, enjoying some success in their academic ventures. What they fail to do, though, is comprehend the lives of their children. All of this, for me, adds up to a downbeat vision of a life where we are most alone when surrounded by the people with whom we’re supposed to have our first experiences of love and loyalty.
The language of the story, then, was part of my attempt to write a story that felt like a children’s picture book with adult themes, though without any actual pictures. I think I managed that, but I think this may not be the story’s most obvious effect. That’s the sort of thing I like to do: create new reading effects without drawing direct attention to them. While I wrote, I imagined “The Language of Moths” as a small book, with accompanying illustrations, the sort that appear in books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. A friction, a force that tugs and pulls at the same time, exists between scenes in which fireflies speak (the way animals and creatures do in fairy tales and fables) and scenes in which adolescent boys encounter a fraught, somewhat dangerous sexual experience in a summer cabin while parents huddle around a campfire outside, mere yards away, discussing their own problems (the way adolescents often encounter such things in coming of age stories). For me, finding a language to write a story that incorporates both kinds of story—fable and realism—was the goal.
It is, in fact, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that inspired me, in part, to write “The Language of Moths”. It’s why I named the family the Carrolls. It’s why I chose to see through Dawn’s eyes as well as Eliot’s, trying to explore the story through her vision of life as well. I saw her as a young woman who has fallen down a rabbit hole; but instead of entering a land where logic and language are suddenly turned on their heads, disorienting her, she enters a world where things suddenly make sense.
The final Nebula ballot for 2007 has been posted at SFWA. Congratulations to everyone whose stories and books and scripts made it this far. I myself am not holding out to win against the likes of that competition. Seeing how it’s the Oscars time of year and all, I’ll risk saying I would be made ridiculously happy if they were funny and made silly jokes about the nominees like Ellen Degeneres did. If an MC hasn’t already been selected, I vote for Gwenda Bond. She can carry off a joke with the best of them.
Now I have to figure out what to wear! 😉
- The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner (Bantam Spectra, Jul06)
Seeker – Jack McDevitt (Ace, Nov05)
The Girl in the Glass – Jeffrey Ford (Dark Alley, Aug05)
Farthing – Jo Walton (Tor Books, Aug06)
From the Files of the Time Rangers – Richard Bowes (Golden Gryphon Press, Sep05)
To Crush the Moon – Wil McCarthy (Bantam Spectra, May05)
- Burn – James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon Publications, Dec05)
“Sanctuary” – Michael A. Burstein (Analog, Sep05)
“The Walls of the Universe” – Paul Melko (Asimov’s, Apr/May06)
“Inclination” – William Shunn (Asimov’s, Apr/May06)
- “The Language of Moths” – Christopher Barzak (Realms of Fantasy, Apr05)
“Walpurgis Afternoon” – Delia Sherman (F&SF, Dec05)
“Journey into the Kingdom” – M. Rickert (F&SF, May06)
“Two Hearts” – Peter S. Beagle (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)
“Little Faces” – Vonda N. McIntyre (SCI FICTION, 23 Feb05)
- “Echo” – Elizabeth Hand (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)
“Helen Remembers the Stork Club” – Esther M. Friesner (F&SF, Nov05)
“The Woman in Schrodinger’s Wave Equations” – Eugene Mirabelli (F&SF, Aug05)
“Henry James, This One’s For You” – Jack McDevitt (Subterranean #2, Nov05)
“An End To All Things” – Karina Sumner-Smith (Children of Magic, Daw Books, Jun06)
“Pip and the Fairies” – Theodora Goss (Strange Horizons, 3 Oct05)
- Batman Begins – Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer (Warner Bros., released 17 Jun05)
Howl’s Moving Castle – Hayao Miyazaki, Cindy Davis Hewitt, and Donald H. Hewitt (Studio Ghibli and Walt Disney Pictures, U.S. Premier 10 Jun05. Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones.)
Unfinished Business – Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica, Dec06)
The Girl in the Fireplace – Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, BBC/The Sci-Fi Channel, Oct06 (broadcast 10 Oct06))
Also awarded by SFWA: Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy:
- Magic or Madness – Justine Larbalestier (Penguin Razorbill, May05)
Devilish – Maureen Johnson, Razorbill (Penguin Young Readers Group, Sep06)
The King of Attolia – Megan Whalen Turner, Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins, 2006)
Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness – Scott Westerfeld (Eos, Mar05)
Peeps – Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Razorbill, Sep05)
Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt, Oct06)
I watched the first few hours of the Oscars last night, and I’m not sure why everyone in the blogosphere has been so critical. I thought Ellen Degeneres was pretty funny, I liked a lot of the montage sequences for some reason, the shadow people were fun pauses in the show and the sound effects choir was cool. Of course I hardly ever watch TV, so maybe it was just a feast for my TV deprived senses. I did think the creative department missed an opportunity with the Best Foreign Language Film award, in which the presenters spoke in English instead of French and Japanese. The presentations are all scripted, so why didn’t they have this award set up with subtitles in English and have the presenters speak their native languages? Then they have the Italian guy accept an award that they also knew would be presented, and somehow Clint Eastwood is his translator…umm…it felt odd, especially as Clint wasn’t on with presenting anyway. I think his presentation was the most garbled I’d ever heard.
But other than this, before I gave up and called it a night, it was mostly fun to watch, considering I generally don’t turn on the TV for entertainment at all these days (except to watch DVDS, of course).
Judges are needed for storySouth’s 2007 Million Writers Award. The award honors the best short stories published online in the previous year. This is an award Richard Bowes, a noted speculative fiction writer, won last year with his story “There’s a Hole in the City”, which had been published in Scifiction. Because the award considers stories of any genre, including scifi, fantasy, horror and romance, they would like to have judges who are well-read in a variety of genres. If you’re interested, and I hope you are, more information can be found at storySouth.