29 August 2010

Writers of the Future Awards Ceremony 2010

I could just post the picture to the above and say, “Look, it’s a photo of me with Tim Powers!” and that could be the whole post. But you are owed a bit more of an explanation.

Last night I attended the 26th Awards Ceremony for The Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest. In case you haven’t wandered around my blog recently, I am one of the winners of the contest for 2010. However, our ceremony won’t be held until next year. (In fact, only three of the twelve writer winners for this year have been announced so far. Amazingly, two of us live in So. Cal—and both have the last name Harvey. Brennan Harvey was at the ceremony last night as well. Sorry you couldn’t be here, David, but we will see you next year!)

The ceremony congratulates the twelve winners from last year, who have come to Los Angeles for the week for an intensive writing workshop, book signings, and the gala extravaganza last night where they were presented with their statues. The event is also the official release of the anthology Writers of the Future, Volume XXVI, which includes the twelves winning stories and illustrations from the winning artists.

Since I live a whopping fifteen minutes drive (half an hour with traffic) from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel where the ceremony is held, it was easy for me to accept the invitation to attend this year’s celebration and get a taste of what will happen to me next year. (I’ll get the truly weird experience of going on a week-long vacation in my own city, a short drive from my apartment.)
I can’t say enough about the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, first of all. Built in 1927, it’s a marvel of the greatest era in Los Angeles architecture. It’s the Old Hollywood glamor of the Golden Age packed into one place, under Spanish arches and Art Deco ceilings. The first Academy Awards Ceremony was held here, in the same Blossom Room where the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Ceremony was held.

The event was gala. I knew it would be from videos and photos I had seen from past ceremonies, but actually sitting in the audience for it and then going to the reception was an astonishing experience. I’ve never gone to any sort of award ceremony that felt so prestigious and so, well, expensive. It’s like a small-scale Academy Awards.
The evening opened with a performance by Dance and Circus Arts of Tampa Bay and California Dance Arts. The aerialists (I talked to two of them afterwards, the beautiful Taylor Lubecki—seen above—and Chelsea Meredith) did the sort of astonishing acrobatic feats you associate with Cirque du Soleil. After this, Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, Founding Chairman of Challenger Center for Space Education, gave a moving opening speech about her personal experience with the infamous Challenger Disaster (her husband Dick Scobee was the commanding officer on the mission, which ended in tragedy two days after my thirteenth birthday) and the positive events that rose from its ashes. (How unfortunate that the shuttle program is about to end.)

The majority of the ceremony was the presentation of the awards to the twenty-four recipients, twelves authors and twelve illustrators. Four were unable to attend, but the rest had their moment on the podium to receive their statue and give a brief speech. You can see how international the contest has become: there were winners from Australia, Ireland, and Singapore. (And yes, I get sent all the way from Century City next year to this event! I totally screw up the “far-flung” ratio, huh?) Visual displays on the large screen played before each award; the screens also showed the amazing “trailer” for Volume 26, complete with all the authors’ names and their winning story.

At the conclusion, the crowd went to the reception room, where we all received our copies of the new book and had the authors and illustrators sign them. This was my chance to mingle with the celebrity judges who were in attendance, which was astonishing to me. This was the first time I’ve gotten to meet some of the major names in science-fiction and fantasy writing, the field in which I hope to make my career. The judges who made it to the ceremony included Mike Resnick, K. D. Wentworth (who is the co-ordinating judge and editor of the anthology), Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Dave Wolverton, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Eric Flint, Tim Powers, Kevin J. Anderson, Doug Beason, Dr. Yoji Kondo, and Robert J. Sawyer.

Let me just say that standing casually in front of Eric Flint and Larry Niven and hear them talking about rights issues and anthologies they were working on . . . wow. I couldn’t believe it. These men are titans. And they’re casually talking to me!
Of the writers I talked to, Kevin J. Anderson (above) spent the most time chatting with me. He’s an amazingly approachable fellow, and talked about how he wanted to be accessible to the writers. He also told me a bit about how his collaboration with Brian Herbert on the “Dune” sequels and prequels worked, which is something I’ve always been interested in.

I had to specifically seek out K. D. Wentworth, to whom I owe winning the contest. She picked my story for the finals, and when I told her who I was, she remembered my story and said some nice things about it. Hard to express how much that means to me.

I talked briefly with Eric Flint about our mutual interest in the Thirty Years’ War (his excellent novel 1632 is one of the few modern works of fiction on it). When Larry Niven came over to talk, I really felt suddenly very overwhelmed. Cripes, how many awards do these guys have between them?

Finally, Tim Powers. Of the authors who were there, he’s definitely the one whose work I love the most. Anubis Gates is one of my favorite novels. He was easy to approach, and I made sure I mentioned how much I liked one of his lesser-known books, The Drawing of the Dark. “That was a fun one to write,” he said. “You never think of connecting spirituality to beer.” I made some remarks about my own experiences in Munich, and how I have an even greater appreciation for what he did in that book. He’s one of the instructors for the writing workshop, and I look forward to having him as a teacher next year.

It was altogether a fantastic experience . . . but it’s only the beginning. Next year, I’m on the other side of the podium.