Tuesday, July 24, 2018

ReaderCon Recap - Shirley Jackson Awards!!!

Now, normally this would be the last post in my roundup. However, I don't always get all the intended ReaderCon posts done, so to forestall inadvertently leaving this very important part of the story out, I am doing it waaaay ahead of the other posts I have planned!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this element of ReaderCon, it is one of my favorites. It is often one of the important ingredients in building my to-read list for the rest of the year. If you missed out on it and are curious, I brought extra copies of the programs from this year's award back to the shop for all of you -- just ask for one at the counter!

But in real-world terms, the Shirley Jackson award recognizes "outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic." Nominees are gathered from published work of the prior year, and assessed by a panel of jurors, assisted by both a Board of Advisors and a Board of Directors.

This event occurs at the tail-end of ReaderCon each year, and gathers in one room a very exciting and formidable conclave of extraordinary writers, editors, and creators. The award was created in honor of the legacy of Shirley Jackson's writing, and with the permission and support of the author's estate, for which we are all grateful, and for which fine gesture our hearts burst with gladness every year.

John Langan
John Langan welcomed us all with customary relish, and F. Brett Cox followed up with further illumination cast on the subject.

It was with great regret that two authors were mentioned In Memoriam: Kit Reed, whose work received two nominations over the years and who gave the opening address at the awards not long ago, and Jack Ketchum, who was an early advisor to the jury.

Nisi Shawl
Next, this year's ReaderCon Guest of Honor, Nisi Shawl, delighted the crowd with her charm, both during her opening address and throughout the award announcements.

Among her remarks was the observation that she had learned from Shirley Jackson to "make the familiar strange." She had some interesting thoughts to relate on how that ties into the field of science fiction, and how it can be used to break up the taboo authors encounter in the SF field against that most familiar part of life -- domesticity.

An additional seasoning of levity was contributed by John Langan's continual return to the podium, as he cheerfully accepted awards on behalf of authors who were unable to attend the ceremony in person. We were assured that he was not any of those people, but by the end of the affair, one wonders if perhaps Mr. Langan has been sweeping the awards by applying vast numbers of pseudonyms to his works in varying styles...? Naaaaahhh...! Couldn't be, right? He did reassure us.

Nisi Shawl & Justin Steele
At first glance it was clear that Looming Low, edited by Justin Steele and Sam Cowan, published by Dim Shores, had dominated the Short Fiction category, with three stories as candidates in that category (3 out of 5, that is!). The winner was "The Convexity of Our Youth," by Kurt Fawver, and Justin was on hand to read Kurt's short acceptance speech to us.

The winner in the Single Author Collection category was Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

Nisi Shawl & Michael Kelly
The Edited Anthology category must have been a heck of a task to settle, with a line-up that just wouldn't quit. But after the dust settled, the winner for 2017 was Shadows and Tall Trees Volume 7, edited by Michael Kelly. After a tearful start, he got down to brass tacks and finished to rousing applause.

Here just a tiny bit of his acceptance speech, which made me want to yell, "Hear hear!" afterwards:
"This is a truly humbling moment. [...] I'm heartened by your belief in me and the books. And thank you to all the readers, reviewers, artists, and others who have supported the press. Finally, it's safe to say that many of us wouldn't be here today without the influence of Shirley Jackson. So, here's to Shirley Jackson. May her memory be eternal." Hear hear!!!

The Novella category was no picnic for the jury either, because a rare tie occurred! The award was given to both Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, and to The Lost Daughter Collective by Lindsey Drager.

The Novelette category was awarded to Chavisa Woods for "Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street," part of her collection titled Things to Do When You're Goth in the Country.

The prize for best Novel was awarded to The Hole by Hye-young Pyun, another battle that must have caused some deliberations, considering the other heavy-hitters on that list of finalists.

All in all it was a terrific affair, and big thanks to everyone involved, including award administrator JoAnn Cox, who ties all the loose ends together and without whom the ceremony wouldn't even happen.

CONGRATULATIONS to all those who were nominated and those who won, it is wonderful to see all your hard work honored in this way. I look forward to next year's awards with (if possible) even more enthusiasm!


This year's nominees (plus those from prior years, and all sorts of other info about the award) can be found on their website here:

Friday, July 20, 2018

ReaderCon 2018 - Recap #1

Last weekend I undertook my annual pilgrimage to ReaderCon, down in Quincy, MA. Each year I am entertained and confounded by the epic schedule of panel discussions, author readings and discussions, and of course the delight of the dealer room, and the treat at the end of it all, the Shirley Jackson Awards.

2018 was no exception!

I started out Friday by going to "The Book As Object," a good warmup for the weekend.j I missed part of the memorial panel in honor of Ursula K. Le Guin, but did get to hear about how (among other things) her story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" continues to generate a remarkable level of response. In particular, short story submissions continue to be sent to current science fiction editors by authors who feel compelled to write their own stories in response to Omelas. This is pretty exciting, considering that Omelas was published in 1973, 45 years ago! It's one of those stories, as observed by a panel member, that "changes people's lives."

You can find the story in a number of places:
-- New Dimensions 3, ed by Robert Silverberg (1973) (and later again in The Best of New Dimensions)
-- The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3, edited by Terry Carr (1974)
-- The Wind's Twelve Quarters, Le Guin short story collection (1975)
-- The Hugo Winners, Volume Three, edited by Isaac Asimov (1977)
-- Wolf's Complete Book of Terror, edited by Leonard Wolf (1979)
... and many more. For a full list, see the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

The next panel was "Nesbit & Eager: Works in Conversation."  This time the discussion was about the relationship between the writing of Edith Nesbit and Edward Eager. Not only their literary work but also their biographical histories were compared and contrasted, lending illumination to the dim corners of their careers and writing.
LtoR: Nisi Shawl, Marissa Lingen, Lila Garrott, Julia Rios, Veronica Shanoes
Like the best panels, it raised additional questions beyond the ones it answered, and made us all want to go read both authors' books.

Here's an illustration of the Bastables' uncle being fierce with a pudding, from The Bastable Children by E. Nesbit. You're welcome.  😉
[to be continued...!]