May 24th, 2009


Compton Crook Award

Yes, I won the Compton Crook Award/Stephen Tall Memorial Award for Best First Novel... on my birthday! Here's my speech:

What an honor to be here today and receive the Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award for best first novel. I'm glad you all got the invitation and could make it. Today is my birthday.

This is not my first award ceremony, I'll have you know. In fact this is not the first award for which these words were nominated. The first chapter of this book, in slightly altered form, was on the ballot for the best novelette in the Asimov's Readers Poll. I didn't win. But that's not the point of this story. Because I won today.

Even though I did not win, I did get a nice breakfast out of it. Sheila Williams was kind enough to invite me to the awards breakfast, held that year at the Nebulas in Chicago. The hotel, when asked if they had a room suitable for a literary award breakfast, replied that yes, yes indeed we have the Library Room. How grand, perfectly suitable. The Library Room would be perfect for an award ceremony celebrating short stories.

It was a nice room, wood-paneled, lined with book shelves, upstairs from the hotel restaurant. After our buffet breakfast, we as writers were naturally attracted to the walls of the room and began perusing the titles. Gardner Dozois pulled a book off the shelf. He turned toward the rest of us, horrified. And if you know Gardner, you know it takes a lot to horrify that man. This may be the only time in 2004 that he was horrified. We'll have to check records.

The book shelves were too shallow to hold a full-sized book. Such a book would have extended off the end of the shelf. So, for aesthetics, the designer of the room had cut all the books in half so that they fit on the shelf clearly and evenly! Every single of one of the books had been sliced in half.

The irony, the horrific irony, was that an awards ceremony for the best literature in Asimov's SF magazine was being held in a room full of mutilated books.

As is often the case when confronted with horror, the human mind turns to maniacal humor. It was the only way we could deal with the trauma. Someone took a book, held it, and recited the title.

Charles Dickens' A Tale of One City

Next to it was Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 225 and a Half and the European version, Celsius 116

Harry Potter and the Quarter Blood Prince was there.

Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 2 and a half.

Zelazny's 9 Barons of Amber.

Orwell's medieval book of authoritarianism: 942.

To Maim a Mockingbird.

A Streetcar Named Lukewarm Affection.

Tuesday Brunch with Morrie.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Solar System.

1001, a Feudal Odyssey.

The Skirmish of the Worlds.

10,000 Leagues under the Sea.

Journey to the Mantle of the Earth.

The Time Traveler's Girlfriend.

Tolkien's second book in his trilogy... (pause while the audience fills in the gap.) See, it's like you all were there.

But the story ends well. When we left, we only tipped 7 and 1/2 percent.

Every book I've written is dedicated to my best friend, my wife Stacey, who was kind enough to travel here with me. Also present is my editor David Hartwell. Thank you, David. And Havis Dawson from my agency is here as well. And thank you to all the readers who read my book, even if you only read half-way.