Episode 285 of The Coode Street Podcast interviews Connie Willis about Crosstalk, which is now out in the U. K. and Australia.
And there’s also a new interview on Goodreads with Connie.
Episode 285 of The Coode Street Podcast interviews Connie Willis about Crosstalk, which is now out in the U. K. and Australia.
And there’s also a new interview on Goodreads with Connie.
WEBSITE UPDATE–“SILENT NIGHT”
I got a great e-mail from Mylinda Hull, a Broadway actress living in Brooklyn who had played Anytime Annie in the 2001 revival of 42nd Street (reprinted here with her permission):
“My name is Mylinda Hull and I arranged the version of “Silent Night” sung by the cast of 42nd Street for “Carols for a Cure” that she used as a plot point in her marvelous novella, “All Seated on the Ground.”
I came to the story randomly, browsing through the Brooklyn Public Library, and my eyeballs rolled around in my head for quite awhile when I came to the part where she wrote about the song.
So I just wanted to tell Connie, thank you. I’m so glad she enjoyed it enough to include it. It must have tickled her, as it did me, to have the loudest tap dancing-est, trumpet blaring-est “Silent Night” on record. I’m curious to know if she happened upon it by chance, or if she did a search for group-sung versions of the song when she needed one for her story.”
I wrote her back:
“Thank you so much for your e-mail! I’m delighted to know who arranged it, since it’s my favorite “Silent Night” ever. The reason I knew about it is that I and my family went to New York the year of the 9-11 attacks. Mayor Giuliani (who I have since had many problems with) had said to support the city by coming and spending money, so we did. We went to the Macy’s Parade, had Thanksgiving dinner at a deli off Times Square, visited Ground Zero, and saw the Rockettes’ Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. We also went to see the musical Urinetown, and at that performance they were selling the “Carols for a Cure” CD, which my daughter bought and we all loved. Lots of great carols, but yours was the most amazing!
I love irony in all its myriad forms–one of my other favorite ironic songs is Barbra Streisand’s sad, torch-song version of “Happy Days Are Here Again”–but your song is my absolute favorite! Particularly since I spent years and years in church choirs singing versions of “Silent Night” which put everyone–including the choir–to sleep. I honestly thought there was nothing to be done that could save the song, but you proved me wrong! We’re not the only ones who love it. We play it for everyone at Christmas, and everyone who hears it adores it!”
I asked her if the song was available anywhere else or if the CD could be bought somewhere, and she replied:
Yes, I looked and the album is still available at the Broadway Cares online store http://broadwaycares.stores.yahoo.net/caforcucds.html and a person can buy single tracks on itunes. I made another recording for them, in the 2005 version when I was in Sweet Charity, the one with Christina Applegate. Much sillier, a Christmas comedy sketch of sorts, it’s called “Joy to the World.” As a fellow connoisseur of curious Christmas lyrics, you might enjoy that one as well.
So if you’re interested, you can listen to it, too. This is what I love about writing. You meet the coolest people! And what I love about libraries–you never know what you might find when you start browsing in them!
Crosstalk by Connie Willis is being published by Del Rey on October 4th, 2016.
Part romantic comedy and part social satire, here one of science fiction’s most lauded authors examines the consequences of having too much connectivity, and what happens in a world where, suddenly, nothing is private.
One of science fiction’s premiere humorists turns her eagle eye to the crushing societal implications of telepathy. In a not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure that has been promised to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. So when Briddey Flannigan’s fiancé proposes that he and Briddey undergo the procedure, she is delighted! Only…the results aren’t quite as expected. Instead of gaining an increased empathetic link with her fiancé, Briddey finds herself hearing the actual thoughts of one of the nerdiest techs in her office. And that’s the least of her problems.
For more information, visit the GoodReads page for Crosstalk
There will also be a signed limited edition from Subterranean Press Note that the book summary there I’d consider much more spoilerly than the one above.
The U.K. edition is being published in paperback by Gollancz on September 15, 2016.
NOTES FROM WALES I:
BUCKLAND AND WESTMARCH AND ELVES, OH MY!
My family and I just got back from England, where we spent two weeks touring Cornwall and Wales. We saw Doc Martin’s village, Tintagel Castle, Dartmoor, Tintern Abbey, the shop of the Tailor of Gloucester, and lots of other fascinating things, which I hope to be writing posts about in coming weeks.
None of us had ever been to Wales and we weren’t sure what to expect. My husband’s ancestors came from Wales. They settled in Colorado, probably drawn there by mining, either the gold and silver being dug out of the mountains or the coal being mined around Louisville, but that was all we knew about them.
Or about Wales, for that matter. Our knowledge was pretty much limited to How Green Was My Valley and The Man Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain, and we had vague notions of coal mines, castles, and mountain valleys (all of which we saw.)
I was also aware of some of the literary connections–Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey; Portmerion, where The Prisoner was filmed; Llandudno, where the real Alice in Wonderland spent her summers; Doctor Who; and, of course, Dylan Thomas.
But the literary connection I hadn’t expected to find was that of J.R.R. Tolkien–I hadn’t even realized he’d been to Wales. But its influence on The Lord of the Rings was everywhere in the names–the Border Marches, Buckland, Dinas Bran, Dwimmerlaik, the Hillmen, Olwen, Elidir–and in the woods and rushing streams and dells, the mountains and mines and the promise of the sea beyond.
Standing on the battlements of Conwy Castle, looking out across the estuary, I felt like Pippin in Minas Tirith. I kept expecting the black-sailed ships of the Corsairs of Umbar to come sailing up from the sea. Picking our way along a stony path over tangles of exposed roots to get to a waterfall you could walk behind, we might have been Frodo and Sam being led by Faramir to the Window of the West. And one night of pouring rain we ate in a warm, smoky old pub that was a dead ringer for the inn at Bree.
We saw wide rushing rivers that were the image of the Bruinen that Glorfindel carried Frodo across, stone houses perched high up on the side of a mountain like Rivendell, dark, ominous tarns like the one that lay just outside the gates of Moria, and ugly slag heaps straight out of Mordor.
And listen to this description from a Victorian guidebook of the view from a peak in Snowdonia:
“…to the west and north, the mountains of Gwynedd, including Snowdon, home of the 4 eagles…to the southwest, a line of serrated hills, running far into the sea, forms the promontory of Eivion and Lleyn, land of gigantic fortresses and weird, lonely peaks, to the east…the iron and lead hills of Flint, shading into the distant vale of Maelor, to the south the upper waters of the holy Dee and the Berwyn ranges: Aran, Cader Idris, Cader Vronwen…to the east, the hills of Powys fade away into the dim, distant lowlands of England…”
Doesn’t that sound exactly like Tolkien? I know he said the attempted ascent of Caradhras was inspired by a trip to the Alps, but it’s obvious Wales’s mountains had an influence on him, too.
And so did Wales’s history. Everything we learned about it reminded us of Lord of the Rings, too, from the Red Book of Hergest (the inspiration for the Red Book of Westmarch?) to Legolas’s longbow. The Welsh invented the longbow and were deadly at it, and when they joined the English at Crecy and Agincourt, they were unstoppable. Reading about the battles, I couldn’t help thinking of the army of elves, marching in with their longbows to fight with Aragorn at Helm’s Deep.
And when I read about Owen Glendower, a hero with royal blood who was forced to live the life of an outlaw in the wilderness, waiting to regain his birthright, it was impossible not to think of Aragorn. Especially when Glendower appeared out of nowhere to save the day, unfurling his banner as he rode–a white banner with a golden dragon on it.
When I got home, I did some research on Wales and Tolkien and discovered that not only had he taught medieval Welsh at the University of Leeds from 1920 to 1925, but that he’d written part of The Lord of the Rings while staying in Talybout-on-Usk, only a few miles from the Buckland Estate. But when I looked up “Wales’ Influence on Tolkien,” I could only find essays on the elves’ language and their singing. Wales’s influence on them can’t be denied. The Welsh are famous for their choirs and their beautiful voices, from Ivor Novello to Charlotte Church. And the origin of Elvish is obvious. As one elderly native speaker said of the elves when she saw the movie, “Why, they’re speaking Welsh!”
But it’s clear to me after having been in Wales, that its influence on The Lord of the Rings was much broader. Everywhere you look, you are of reminded of Mirkwood and Minas Tirith, of old wars and rings of power and abandoned mines. And elves. And dragons. “I love Wales, and especially the Welsh language,” Tolkien once said, and that was obvious everywhere we went. Wales is definitely Tolkien country!
Conwy Castle, or the walls of Minas Tirith
Brecon Beacons, or Faramir’s path
Snowdonia, or the Misty Mountains
Sgwd Isaf Clwn-gwyn (White Meadow Falls), or Window of the West
Swallow Falls near Betws-y-Coed, or Bruinen
The mining slag heaps at Blaeunau Ffestiniog, or Mordor
Photos courtesy of Cordelia Willis
I just returned from attending the Jack Williamson Lectureship, which I’ve gone to for over fifteen years. It’s a wonderful two-day conference–like a mini-science-fiction convention, with great guests of honor, speeches, readings, panels, great conversations, and wonderful food.
This year’s Lectureship featured Albuquerque author Vic Milan, the author of The Dragon Lords series, and other guests included Laura Mixon, Walter Jon Williams, Emily Mah, and Joan Saberhagen. There was a reading of Jack Williamson-inspired works, panels on “The Perennial Appeal of Dinosaurs” and “CAUTION: Writers at Work,” a student SF film competition, and, as always, a tour of the Jack Williamson Science Fiction Collection.
Each time I go, I am struck all over again by how wonderful this collection is, and how surprised people passing through the little town of Portales would be to know that ENMU houses one of the finest collections in the country, or the circumstances under which it came to be there.
Jack Williamson was one of the forefathers of science fiction and its dean, writing groundbreaking work like “Seetee Ship”, Darker Than You Think, “With Folded Hands,” The Humanoids, The Legion of Time, and the award-winning autobiography, Wonder’s Child; publishing from 1928 into the next century (and the next millennium); and shaping the field in extraordinary ways. Readers of today might not recognize the names of his stories–but they would definitely recognize the words and concepts he invented while writing them: androids, genetic engineering, terraforming, and artificial intelligence.
He pioneered the study of science fiction as a serious form of literature, and the teaching of it as a discipline, served as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and traveled all over the world, from Europe to China, as an ambassador of science fiction.
He won the Hugo and Nebula Awards (the Oscars of science fiction), was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, was named a SFWA Grand Master of Science Fiction, was invited to watch a shsuttle launch at NASA, and had an asteroid named after him.
He also endowed the university and established the Lectureship, an annual gathering of science fiction and fantasy writers, fans, and readers, which has had as guests such luminaries as Greg Bear, George R.R. Martin, Michael Swanwick, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nancy Kress, Hollywood screenwriters Melinda Snodgrass and Michael Cassutt, editors Gardner Dozois and Stephen Haffner, and a record six SFWA Grand Masters: Frederik Pohl, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, Joe Haldeman, and James Gunn–seven counting Jack.
And he donated his personal collection of manuscripts, correspondence, awards, and other memorabilia to the university, which became the foundation for the “Special Collections” section of the campus library.
The collection is the third largest SF collection in the United States which is available to the public. Visitors can see his awards, original typed manuscripts of his stories, photographs, his correspondence with editors, agents, and publishers, first editions of his books, the SF pulp magazines which inspired him, the original drawings of his syndicated Sunday-funnies comic strip, Beyond Mars, and letters from Isaac Asimov, Algis Budrys, Leigh Brackett, and Ray Bradbury.
The collection also has signed books by a large number of other authors and the Duane and Kathryn Elms collection of first editions, signed editions, collectible publications, and SF memorabilia.
Gene Bundy, his staff, Golden Library’s librarians, and ENMU have worked to make this collection into a first-class archive and research resource. It’s a true treasure and an invaluable collection.
But collections and libraries are only as stable as the social and political climate around them, and they’re always in danger of being downsized, co-opted, or squeezed out.
I know this from personal experience. There’ve been at least two attempts to close the Lincoln Park branch of our public library here in Greeley since I moved here, and at one point a president of our university decided that the university’s library, Michener Library, (which incidentally contains many of the manuscripts and private effects of James Michener) wasn’t necessary at all. After all, CSU and CU were less than 60 miles away; the students could be bused there. And there was always Interlibrary Loan, wasn’t there?
This isn’t new. When Andrew Carnegie set out on his ambitious project to build public libraries in every town in America, he made them sign a contract which would ensure that the libraries wouldn’t instantly be coopted for something else the minute he left town. He knew full well that mayors and city councils would be eager to get their hands on his libraries and turn them, say, into a larger office for the mayor.
Even when things are relatively stable, funding is always a problem and libraries constantly have to fight for space and resources and against the idea that libraries are outdated and unnecessary.
The Jack Williamson Collection is no exception. Right now Golden Library is undergoing a major renovation and restructuring, with the very real possibility that the collection will not be allowed to grow and might even have the space available to it reduced in the future.
Because of this, I’ve written a letter to the president of ENMU, to the head of the New Mexico State Department of Education, to Gene Bundy, and to the head of Golden Library, telling them how much the collection means to me as a science fiction writer and reader.
And Laura Mixon and I are putting out the word, requesting people to send respectful letters and e-mails in support of the SFF Special Collections library and the Lectureship.
The collection is in no immediate danger of shrinking and/or disappearing, but I want to make sure people know now how important the collection is, not after it’s too late. And Andrew Carnegie was right. There’s always somebody who can think of a much better use for that space. It’s up to the people who care about something like the collection to make sure nothing happens to it.
Here are the addresses and e-mail addresses for telling them what the Jack Williamson Collection and the Lectureship mean to you:
Steven Gamble, President
Eastern New Mexico University
1500 S. Ave. K
Portales, NM 88130
Dr. Barbara Damron
Cabinet Secretary, Department of Higher Education
2048 Galisteo St.
Santa Fe, NM 87505-2100
Director of Library Services
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, NM 88130
Gene Bundy, Special Collections Librarian, Golden Library
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, NM 88130
Thanks for your help. Connie Willis
[Connie’s website update for April, 2016]
Because it’s National Poetry Month (are they aware Carl Sandburg called April “the cruelest month?”) and everybody’s talking about their favorite poems, I got to wondering whether I had one. And whether songs count. For the last month, I’ve been listening obsessively to “What Can You Lose?”, the Stephen Sondheim song/poem sung by Mandy Patinkin and Madonna in Dick Tracy.
Before that, it was Ivor Novello’s “The Land of Might-Have-Been” (Gosford Park) and before that, “The Lady of Shalott” as sung by Loreena McKennitt, which is definitely poetry, and Tennyson, at that. And for years it’s been William Butler Yeats’s “The Song of Wandering Aengus,” as sung by Bud and Travis, the most haunting poem I know and the only one I can recite from memory–though if I listen to “The Lady of Shalott” much longer, I’ll have that memorized, too.
–“Bagpipe Music” by Louis MacNeice, which begins, “It’s no go the merry-go- round, it’s no go the rickshaw,/ All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow.”
–“I Remember Snow” by Stephen Sondheim (from Evening Primrose)
–“It Was Not Death, for I Stood Up” by Emily Dickinson
–“Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden (from the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral)
–“With rue my heart is laden” by A.E. Housman
–“anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e.e. cummings
–“Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot
–“You’re the Top” by Cole Porter
–“How Long Has This Been Going On?” by George Gershwin
And every poem Dorothy Parker ever wrote, including this one:
“Oh, love is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea,
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
And I am Marie of Romania.”
Happy National Poetry Month!
WEBSITE UPDATE–MARCH 30, 2016
by Connie Willis
April Fool’s Day is Friday, and I’ve already begun bracing myself for it, not because I don’t love April Fool’s jokes but because I don’t want to fall for them. Especially NPR’s April Fool’s stories. I got fooled by one of them a few years ago in spectacular fashion, and it was truly humiliating.
It was on All Things Considered. I was listening as I drove home, and they were doing a piece on the National Mouth Sounds Competition. It began innocently enough with sounds like bird calls and dogs barking and the wind blowing and then progressed to interviewing some of the contestants, who sounded exactly like the people at science-fiction conventions and birder gatherings and a capella competitions–it was all totally believable.
And then they played the winner of the competition making the sound of an oncoming train, with clacking wheels and steam and whistles and the roar of the train whooshing past. Wow! I thought. How did he do that? And went home and told my husband how talented he had been.
Halfway through my account, it suddenly occurred to me that I’d been had–and what day it was–and went, “Oh, no! It was an April Fool’s joke!” But as you can imagine, that didn’t save me from years of being teased about it, and rightly so.
In my defense, I can only say that I didn’t fall for the “Why don’t Americans read anymore?” one or the “Nixon deciding to run for President again” one. And that, except for the train, the entire mouth sounds piece was all entirely plausible. I mean, there could be such a thing as a National Mouth Sounds Competition, couldn’t there? There’s every other kind: show choir competitions and yodeling competitions and whistling competitions. Why not mouth sounds?
That’s the key to a great April Fool’s joke, of course, that it’s just an inch or two over the line from being plausible. Not: “Oh, my God, I just heard on the news that aliens have landed, but: “Did you see those new skinny skinny jeans from American Eagle Outfitters? You spray them on.”
The “mouth sounds” piece was narrated by Robert Siegel, who always narrates All Things Considered human interest pieces, and NPR does a lot of that kind of stuff: pieces on a Cuban all-female orchestra and tatting and Susan Stamberg’s horseradish-and-sour cream cranberry sauce recipe. (Which I actually made and which in fact might be an April Fool’s joke, considering how it tastes, even though she does it at Thanksgiving.)
They also easily might have done a real story on holographic advertising (their April Fool’s story said physicists at MIT had perfected a laser that could project long-distance holograms and that Coca-Cola had licensed the rights to beaming their logo onto the Moon’s surface, turning it into a giant billboard.)
That’s another key to a good April Fool’s joke–details. The more specific the story is, the more believable, especially if it involves science. Or a technology that’s already in our lives. Like lasers or smartphones. Or digital watches. My favorite April Fool’s joke of all time was the one the BBC did where they announced Big Ben was going to go digital. A bright green digital readout was going to replace the four Victorian clock faces. You can imagine how that was received!
The BBC is probably the best in the world at April Fool’s jokes, beginning with their classic “spaghetti harvest,” which you can still see on YouTube.
Here are some of my other favorite April Fool’s (and other day’s’) jokes:
And the fool who got duped by all of this? Adolf Hitler himself. So much so that he was convinced Normandy was just a feint and refused to release Rommel’s tanks to go help till it was too late to stop the D-Day invasion. Best April Fool’s joke ever!
(Note: If you want to know more about it, read Hoodwinking Hitler: The Normandy Deception by Gilles Praeger or The Secret of D-Day by William B. Breuer. Or my own Blackout and All Clear. I wrote all about it.)
(Second Note: One of the above 12 listed hoaxes isn’t real. I mean, none of them are real, but one of them wasn’t done on April Fool’s Day. I just made it up. And no, it’s not the D-Day one!)
Happy April Fool’s Day!!!!!
NOTES FROM THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
A REPORT FROM SPOKANE AND THIS YEAR’S WORLDCON
As if there wasn’t enough anxiety about Worldcon this year after what Bob Silverberg described as a summer of “apprehension, tension, and dissension,” in science fiction, our trip to the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane got off to a bad start before we even arrived. Lots of people had decided not to come because of the Rabid/Sad Puppies controversy, I was nervous about flying only four weeks after having had eye surgery, and when we arrived, there were no cabs at the airport, and the people in the line we joined said there never would be any.
“We’ve been here forty-five minutes without seeing one,” they reported. A call to the hotel’s shuttle number produced a reprimand to the effect that we should have received a place on one when we booked the hotel or earlier (???), and a subsequent call to the number for the taxi service taped to the wall connected us to a semi-hysterical voice saying, “We don’t have any cabs! They’re all out! You’ll just have to wait!”
After many moons, a shuttle from our hotel finally arrived, and we got on, feeling like we were taking the last lifeboat on the Titanic, and looking guiltily back at all the fellow convention-goers we’d left behind. The mood wasn’t helped by the shuttle driver, who cheerily pointed out the casino we were passing on the way into Spokane (still several miles away) and saying, “It’s got a really fancy gourmet restaurant. Lots of visitors come out here for dinner.”
“How?” we asked, but he didn’t hear us. He was busy praising Spokane’s other fancy gourmet restaurants. “We’ve got an Applebee’s. And a P.F. Chang’s.” But at least we were on our way to safety.
Or so we thought. But instead of being taken to rescue on the Carpathia–or even the Hyatt–we were transported to a true shipwreck of a hotel.
It was brand-new and ultramodern, but upon closer examination, it was like those strange nightmare hotels in a “we’re already dead but don’t know it yet” movie. The blinds couldn’t be worked manually, and we couldn’t find any controls. There was no bathtub. The shower closely resembled the one in a high-school locker room, and there was no door between it and the toilet. (I am not making this up.) The clock had no controls for setting an alarm–a call to the front desk revealed that was intentional: “We prefer our clients to call us and request a wake-up call”–and when you turned the room lights off, the bright blue glow from the clock face enveloped the room in Cherenkhov radiation, and there was no way to unplug it. We tried putting a towel and then a pillow over it and ended up having to turn it face-down.
That wasn’t all. If you sat on the edge of the bed or lay too close to the edge, you slid off onto the floor, a phenomenon we got to test later on when we began giving tours of our room to disbelieving friends. “Don’t sit on the end of the bed,” we told them. “You’ll slide off,” and then watched them as they did.
We had encountered a mattress like this once before in LaPorte, Indiana, but that was at a fleabag hotel we stayed at because it was the only place with a vacancy. here the slidiness seemed to be a feature, not a bug. There were signs all over our room and the lobby telling us how we could buy a mattress just like it to take home with us. (I am not making this up, I swear.)
Best of all, the driver of the hotel shuttle that took us to dinner (because there still weren’t any taxis) assured us we could just call as soon as we were done and they’d pick us up immediately. When we did, he said, “It will be at least an hour,” and the maître d’ told us our chances of finding a taxi at this hour (9 p.m.) were nil. So we walked.
Through the smoke from the forest fires burning on all sides of the city. It went from hazy on the first day to thick yellow fog full of drifting pieces of white ash on Saturday. The TV news declared a Code Red and advised people to stay inside and take shallow breaths, and the people filming Syfy’s Z Nation, a Zombie-Apocalypse TV series which films in Spokane had to put filters on to remove some of the smokiness from their end-of-the-world landscape.
In the meantime, the sun had gone bright orange, the moon had turned to blood, some of the Strolls with the Stars walks had to be cancelled, and the maps showed that the fires were getting closer and closer to Spokane–at which point we started wondering what the eleven thousand people at the con were going to do if we got the call to evacuate–and there was only one taxi in the entire city.
And face it, we were already nervous. The Sad/Rabid Puppies mess had been escalating all summer, with threats from them of dire consequences and organized disruptions if even one “No Award” was given. And one of the Puppies had sent a letter to the Spokane Police Department making false and possibly libelous accusations against David Gerrold (see File 770 for a full account.)
So it was no wonder we approached the night of the Hugo Awards Ceremony with…shall we say? trepidation. Which wasn’t helped by the fact that for the first time in my experience of Hugo Awards Ceremonies, we had to go through a security bag check to get into the auditorium.
But none of the disasters the omens had been predicting came to pass (except, of course, that half the state of Washington burned down.) But the Hugo ceremony went off without a hitch. The co-emcees David Gerrold and Tananarive Due were great, everyone there had a great time, and I witnessed something I never thought I’d see in this lifetime: Robert Silverberg leading the audience in a soothing chant of “Hare Krishna.”
The membership voted overwhelmingly to reject the Puppies’ coup attempt and their slate of nominees, giving “No Award” in five categories, and everyone who appeared onstage was terrific, including the people who won. They gave thoughtful, serious acceptance speeches about what the award meant to them and how they felt about what had happened, saying many things that the people charged with running the ceremony couldn’t and emphatically voicing their love of science fiction.
As you may know from my previous statement on this website, I had refused to present an award at the Hugos because I didn’t want to lend credibility to the hijacking of the award nominations by the Sad/Rabid Puppies.
On the other hand, I very much wanted to support emcee (and old friend) David Gerrold, and when he asked me to come onstage to give him and his co-host Tananarive Due a supportive hug and then do a little schtick about emceeing, or as David said, “go off on a wild tangent”, I was more than happy to oblige.
I talked about the trials of emceeing the Hugos and all the things that could go wrong, from reading the wrong name to having the award literally fall apart in your hands, plus all the stuff completely out of your control, like technical glitches, unruly award recipients (you know who you are), and Brazilian mediums.
I’ve posted my speech below, in case you want to read it. I wish I was able to post Robert Silverberg’s, which was, as usual, hilarious and delivered in the cool, dry, sophisticated manner nobody can come close to imitating. I also wish I could post the emcees’ great riffs on Star Trek, Dr. Who, Game of Thrones (“George R.R. Martin isn’t on Twitter anymore because he killed all 140 characters”), and trying to find the right page in their script.
I was really glad I was there, in spite of the smoke and the Kafka Hotel and all the apprehension, tension, and dissension. [You can watch the entire ceremony here]
This is not to say that I’m not still furious about the whole thing. Because of the Puppies’ machinations, people who should have won didn’t, people who should have been nominated weren’t, people who were felt they had to turn down the nomination, and innocent people were caught in the crossfire. But my greatest fear, that the controversy would tear science fiction apart, didn’t come to pass. The community presented a united front and affirmed the tolerance, diversity, and classiness of the field I love.
And Spokane turned out to have some great restaurants, including Anthony’s, which has a great view of the falls, yummy fish, and a delicious peach slump (though they might want to work on the name. On second thought, cobbler isn’t much better as a name.)
Our favorite, though, has to have been Luigi’s, located just a couple of blocks from our hotel. It was an old-time Italian restaurant with wonderful sausage and peppers and an amazing spaghetti mizithra. It was great.
And so was Worldcon. In spite of all the challenges, Spokane put on a great convention. And a great Hugo Awards ceremony.
Oh, and my eye’s fine.
— Anna Senek (@AnnaSenek) August 23, 2015
Emceeing the Hugo Awards ceremonies is a much tougher job than most people realize.
You have NO idea how many things can go wrong.
I mean, like you might forget an entire category.
Or the name of the wrong winner’s in the envelope.
Or the right name’s in the envelope,
but a completely different name is on the screens behind you.
Or the tech doesn’t work,
and you have to improvise for 45 minutes
while they try to fix it.
Or the tech DOES work,
only the slides somehow get out of order somehow
so that as you’re announcing Best Fan Artist,
the screens are showing the name of the Best Novel Winner.
Or the Hugo Awards fall completely apart.
I’m not talking about the ceremony.
I’m talking about the awards themselves.
This one year they had these great Hugos,
with sort of a modernist sculpture look,
a big angled ring of Saturn thing with the rocket ship sticking up through it
and marbles representing planets,
and brass nuts and bolts and stuff.
They looked great,
but they weren’t glued together very well,
and by the time Samuel R. Delaney got off the stage,
his Hugo was in both hands
and his pockets
and on the floor,
and mine had lost several pieces altogether.
“Did you lose your marbles?” I whispered to Gardner backstage.
“No,” Gardner whispered back in that voice of his
that can be heard in the back row,
“My balls didn’t fall off, but my toilet seat broke!”
I told you, emceeing’s a tough job.
So many things are out of your control.
One of the winners can trip coming up the steps.
Or pass out at the podium.
Or make a speech that goes on and on and on,
and just when you think they’re finished,
they go off on some tangent,
and you think they’re never going to shut up.
So anyway, it’s a really hard job,
which is why I’m here to give the emcees a big hug,
and tell them they’re doing great!
Though you can do a great job
and still have everything go to hell.
Like that time in Baltimore
where somebody thought it was a good idea
to have a crab feast before the awards,
which meant everyone in the audience had a wooden mallet!
And then there was the time I was emceeing,
and I had to present an award to H…um…Never mind.
My POINT is, that no matter how well-prepared you are–
this year, for instance,
I wrote down my speech so I wouldn’t go off on a tangent
and shortened my skirt so I wouldn’t trip over it
and got my rabies shots in case I got bitten by a bat again
like I did when I was emceeing at the Locus Awards.
Well, I didn’t actually get bitten at the Locus Awards.
I was at home.
Two days before I was supposed to leave for the Locus Awards.
And this bat bit me.
While I was asleep!
Just like Dracula!
Only it bit me on the ankle,
and I didn’t turn into a vampire…
although the last few days I’ve had this insatiable desire
to read all the TWILIGHT books.
Which are the best-written, most literary novels I have ever read,
and I don’t know why they didn’t ALL win Hugos!
Where was I?
Oh, yes, giving the emcees hugs.
They deserve them.
Because no matter what you do to plan a well-ordered Hugo ceremony,
things can get out of control.
Like this year, for instance,
you could be bitten by a rabid marmot.
Or an old man could come up to you and make you sing “Hare Krishna.”
Or the smoke could get so bad they tell us to evacuate–
and there’s only one taxi in this entire town!
Or there could be some kind of problem with the ballot.
I don’t know if you’ve heard about what’s been going on recently,
but down in Brazil
there are all these spiritualists
claiming their books were dictated to them
by the ghosts of Victor Hugo
and Charles Dickens.
None of them have claimed they’re channeling SF authors yet,
but what if they do?
Who do we give the Hugo to, the medium or H.G. Wells?
And if we’re giving it to Wells, HOW do we give it?
Do we have to send somebody to the other side to deliver it?
And if so, who should we send?
As I was SAYING,
emceeing is a thankless job.
So thankless our emcees not only deserve a hug
but a medal of valor.
And let’s hope I don’t stab them
as I try to pin the medal on,
or suddenly feel an insatiable desire to bite them on the neck…
umm, maybe I’d better let them pin it on themselves.
Let’s hear it for our terrific emcees,
David and Tananarive!
Photos courtesy of John O’Halloran
I FINALLY FINISHED MY NOVEL!
Oh, frabjous day! Calloo-dallay!
Happiness! Fireworks! Delirium! Joy!
I’ve finally finished my novel. I know, I know, I said that a year ago, and I did think it was finished when I turned it in– and then spent months and months doing the revisions (three separate rounds of changes and cuts) and cursing the day I’d decided to write the stupid thing.
But now it’s done–well, not quite; I still have the copy-edited manuscript and the galley to go–and it will be out next fall! Yay!
It’s called CROSSTALK, and it’s about telepathy–and our overly communicating world. It’s also about helicopter mothers, social media, Joan of Arc, sugared cereals, Bridey Murphy, online dating, zombie movies, Victorian novels, and those annoying songs you get stuck in your head and can’t get rid of!
Here’s the set-up: My heroine Briddey Flannigan works at a smartphone company . Her on-the-fast-track boyfriend Trent has just talked her into the two of them having an EED, a minor surgical procedure that makes it possible for the couple to sense each other’s feelings–but only if you’re both emotionally committed. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.
“Oh, you’re so lucky!” her assistant enthuses. “It proves he loves you!” And everyone else is thrilled for her–except for C.B. Schwartz, the scruffy tech genius down in the basement, and her constantly meddling Irish-American family, who all think it’s a terrible idea. And dangerous.
“What if you come out of the surgery a vegetable?” C.B. asks her.
“It’s perfectly safe,” she assures him. Brad and Angelina have had it done. And Kate and William. And nobody’s had any bad side effects. What could possibly go wrong? And in spite of their warnings, Briddey goes ahead and has it done.
And nothing does go wrong: she comes through the surgery just fine, and even begins sensing emotions earlier than the doctor said she would. Only they’re not Trent’s emotions. And a few minutes later, when she finds herself not just empathetic, but telepathic, she’s linked not to Trent, but to C.B.
And she can’t tell Trent because you’re only supposed to be able to connect to someone you’re in love with, and she can’t tell her family because they’ll say, “I told you so!”, and she can’t tell the doctor because he’ll think she’s crazy, and meanwhile, C.B. is making smart remarks and offering all sorts of unhelpful advice. And you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Things are about to get much, much worse…
The novel was partly inspired by our wildly over-connected world, in which we’re constantly bombarded with communication, most of it unwelcome, and partly by the misconceptions people have about what being telepathic would be like. They always assume it would either be profitable (finding out people’s computer codes or social security numbers or blackmailable personal secrets) or fun.
So not true. In the first place, people think all kinds of things we don’t want to hear. “No man is a hero to his valet,” Madame Cornuel famously said. Or to anyone who can hear what he’s thinking. I mean, do you really want to be privy to all the crabby, spiteful, nasty, malicious, and downright unhinged things people think?
In the second place, listening to people’s thoughts would be terminally boring. I often write at Starbucks and unwillingly overhear lots of conversations. On one occasion I was stuck next to two women having a riveting discussion. “I’ve got to go to the grocery store after I leave here,” one of them said. “I don’t know what to buy for supper. I was thinking a beef roast and potatoes with carrots or maybe green beans, only Bob doesn’t like them. Maybe I could make a meat loaf. Or pork chops.” This went on for forty-five minutes while her friend said not a word. (Actually, it might have been interesting to hear what she was thinking.) Do you really want to be stuck listening to that? Or to some guy going on and on about how he hates his boss–or his ex-wife? And just think what the upcoming election season would be like?
And there’s no reason to think you’d be able to just listen to the parts you wanted to, like Mel Gibson did in that awful movie, What Women Want. Or that you could choose who to listen to. You might very well hear them night and day. And there’s no guarantee it would be limited to people you know. You might be stuck hearing that bratty five-year-old on the plane behind you. Or the thoughts of a serial killer. Or a Wall Street broker. Not a pretty picture.
I considered all these unpleasant possibilities–and a bunch of others–when I was writing Crosstalk. So I guess you could call it an anti-telepathy telepathy novel. On the other hand, there might be some aspects of being mentally connected to another person that might be truly lovely, like…
No, I’d better let you find those out for yourselves. Crosstalk, coming out from Random
House next fall. I’ll keep you posted on exactly when.
And in the meantime, Hurray! I’m done!