Jeff Carlson's Take On The Recent Awards Ceremony
Jeff Carlson Receives Award from Contest Judge Larry Niven
Writers of the Future insider report, Part III
I was a first-place winner in this year’s Writers of the Future short story contest. I survived their week-long “boot camp” writing workshops and the black-tie awards ceremony in Pasadena, California, and my life is gradually getting back to normal enough that I’m journaling the experience. Here, finally, is Part Three of my insider report on what has been the most prestigious short fiction contest in science fiction and fantasy for twenty-three years.
JEFF CARLSON, PART THREE
As we arrived at Caltech for the WOTF black-tie awards ceremony, everyone gathered inside a dark, ornate, wood-paneled hall beside the Athenaeum, enjoying the air conditioning and the novelty of our company. In the space of twenty minutes, I introduced my wife to two of my favorite writers, Doug Beason and Jerry Pournelle, and we also spoke with one of the JPL engineers again, a young über-genius named Arin Morfopoulos.
Dinner was unreal. Everyone was in their best and Galaxy Press had made certain to seat a celebrity at every table. Diana and I happened to find ourselves with Dr. Pournelle again, who, not surprisingly, is an entertaining story teller. Most of our talk was about writing, of course, and publishing and the contest. Meanwhile we were served a topnotch, four-course meal straight out of Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous.
And my adrenaline continued to pick up.
We were ushered out into the night. I squeezed my hands into fists just to redirect my excitement. Despite the ample seating, it was standing room only, with many guests on their feet to the sides and rear of the rows upon rows of chairs provided for 400 people.
The celebration began with a “book trailer” for the anthology that would not have been out of place in any movie theater, with stunning graphics and music displayed on the twelve-foot video screen. It was a thrill to see my story included in the machine gun burst of imagery, FX, teasers, and enthusiastic endorsements from Kevin J. Anderson, Orson Scott Card, and Locus Magazine.
“Hot New Talent.” You gotta love that.
The illustrators accepted their awards first, and I was nervous for them as one by one they made their thank-yous at the podium. I could only imagine what it must be like up there in the lights before the crowd... and too soon I would find out.
Each winner was first introduced and then welcomed onto the stage by a contest judge. I drew Larry Niven, which was a huge pleasure, since I’d grown up absorbed with books like Ringworld and Lucifer’s Hammer.
When I walked to the podium, my mind went blank in a white nuclear flash. So many faces! The applause was dazzling and I was very aware of the camera crew kneeling at the edge of the stage. Beyond the crowd, on a raised platform, was another camera aimed at me like an artillery cannon. Somehow I got through my speech with exactly the gratitude and excitement I’d wanted to convey.
L. Ron Hubbard’s foresight and generosity in establishing the contest have had a profound effect in keeping science fiction alive and thriving. WOTF is exactly what the field needs to give new writers a shot in the arm. The workshops are unmatched and the anthology puts each year’s stories exactly where this work needs to be, on the book racks and in people’s hands.
It’s a life-changing event.
After the lights came down, the writers and illustrators gathered around a long table to autograph Vol. XXIII for the hundreds of guests, shaking hands, taking pictures, and laughing now that the tension of being on stage was done.
There were photos and interviews, and Diana and I didn’t get back to the hotel until 2:30 in the morning...
...and we promptly rose just six hours later for a hot shower, hot coffee, and a shuttle ride to the downtown Borders, where Galaxy Press had organized a public launch of the anthology. Many of the instructors and judges also came along to sign their own books, and I was deeply pleased see this incredible line-up include my own first novel, an end-of-the-world thriller entitled Plague Year.
The event was a success by any reckoning. We sold hundreds of books, and the Borders manager said afterward that it had been the most profitable book signing in their history.
And we still weren’t done! Some of the writer winners went off to a late lunch with the editorial staff of Abyss & Apex, a successful online magazine, while others hurried to do interviews with the web & podcast program Adventures In SF.
That evening was bittersweet. We’d been through the fire together. We were close for it. Day after day, the entire week at WOTF had been a heady and sometimes overwhelming experience. Now we had to say goodbye. It was over.
It was just beginning!!!
John Goodwin had already secured a television appearance for writer winner Steve Gaskell, I was set for an interview with the nationally-syndicated radio show Sci Fi Overdrive, and many of us were already booked for our own autographings at stores and military bases.
The reality is that the workshops, the awards ceremony and other mind-croggling events at WOTF are by no means intended to be the peak of your career. It’s a launch pad. It’s rocket fuel.
If you want to write, enter the contest.
PLAGUE YEAR, from Ace Books in August 2007
“The Frozen Sky” in WOTF XXIII in September
and WAR DAY, from Ace in Summer 2008
Tags: awards ceremony, book signing, wotf contest, writers of the future
Current Mood: excited