The Yiddish policemen's other union

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Laura and I had a memorable weekend in Austin, Texas. We were there, of course, for the Nebula Awards Weekend, but we spent Friday evening out with local friends—expatriate New Yorkers and repatriated Texans. This was a very good thing, we later decided, since Laura was forced to deal with a terrible work crisis almost as soon as we reached our hotel and the evening out with close and sympathetic friends served as a better tonic for that than would brooding at home or making small talk with strangers.

Sheila Williams & Connie Willis Saturday morning we dragged our hangovers out for breakfast with our friends up from Houston. We arrived back at the Omni Austin around noon—just in time to spy Geoff Landis at the breakfast bar in the restaurant, rush up to say hello, and stumble into the middle of the Dell Magazines awards ceremony that was just getting underway. Sheila Williams was very mostly almost patient with us as she invited us to sit down right now so they could start handing out certificates. Sorry, Sheila! Sorry, Stan! Hi, Trevor!

While Laura hoofed it in search of a pedicure, I lingered to chat with Geoff, [info]maryturzillo, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress, and Jack Skillingstead about politics and other ephemera. Next was the SFWA Business Meeting, after which I enjoyed an afternoon snackie in the bar with [info]paulmelko, [info]scottedelman, and Mike Marano. I spied Toby Buckell across the bar, and though he was suffering from something nasty, I managed to get close enough to him to have a long conversation about writing.

Michael Chabon's Nebula acceptance speech We sat with Geoff and Mary and Paul and Scott at the banquet and awards ceremony—an occasion, I agreed with Mary, which is always more enjoyable when one is not nominated. Mary was, and, sadly, did not take home the Lucite in the short story category. Michael Chabon did win, however, for his wonderful novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union, making 2008 one of the years when SFWA most certainly got it right. His acceptance speech was charming and heartfelt; he admitted that he'd started wanting a Nebula at the age of 15, and he thanked his editors for not catching on to the fact that his novel was really (if I can recall his phrasing correctly) "at its counterfactual heart a work of science fiction."

The mighty Michael Moorcock was awarded SFWA's Damon Knight Grandmaster Award, making him the 25th Grandmaster of science fiction. His acceptance speech was a dizzying tour through the multiverse of New Wave SF personalities, and made me acutely aware of my shameful failure ever to have read any Moorcock beyond Behold the Man. He was a hero to the gang I ran with in high school, so I have no excuse really, except to say that Asimov was my personal literary hero back then. But now I gotta get me some Elric and some Jerry Cornelius and so forth. That's a huge hole in my education, as shocking as the fact that I never read Heinlein until adulthood.

In the hospitality suite after the ceremony, I wanted to meet Michael Chabon but was too nervous to approach him. He's one of my two living literary idols (the other being, for different reasons, Stephen King), and I can get tongue-tied around friends I know well, let alone people whose talents awe me. Paul Melko and Laura kept pushing me, like cronies at a junior-high dance urging me to ask someone to dance. In the end, Melko seized me by the arm, dragged me over to Chabon, stuck his hand out, congratulated him, and said, "And I'd like you to meet Bill Shunn."

If there was ever a writer who stood to ruin his career by declaring his love of genre fiction and not simply defending but championing it, it's Michael Chabon. Even when the bulk of his output was squarely mainstream, he hadn't lost sight of the notion that reading should be a massively entertaining proposition. On top of this, he comes across as a genuine, and genuinely nice, guy, charming in an unpretentious, gosh-wow sort of way. When he shook my hand and tried to convince me that we had met before, I almost believed him. I wanted it to be true, in fact. The highlight of a marvelous, Texas-sized weekend.

Back to Chicago early Sunday morning. Now regrouping for a quick business trip to New York later this week, and a two-week excursion to Malta, Egypt, and Jordan later next month.

See all my Nebula Awards Weekend photos here.
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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on April 30, 2008 7:58 AM.

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