Look at that ballot. Look at it. I start to vibrate with delight as I run down the list of works and names and find my story among them. I owe so many thanks to Seanan McGuire for taking this story, to Lightspeed for publishing it, to all the dear friends and family members who helped me figure it out and tighten it up, and of course, to everyone who loved it enough to nominate it. Thank you.
The first (and last) time I was nominated for the Nebula Award was in 2011, for “The Green Book”. I was living in Cornwall, and wrote elsewhere about the experience of Getting the Phone Call:
Fun fact: Cornwall has the lousiest cell phone reception of any county in the UK, allegedly because of all the granite. Certainly, it is almost impossible to get decent phone reception in my house.
So it was about 5:00-ish when I flipped the phone open and winced at the fact that I could hardly hear anything but garbled static. I made for the door, saying something like “hello? sorry, just a second,” and as I stepped through the doorway, heard something that sounded like “KshhhkhshhhKshhhfiction Writers of America.”
I had a moment of thinking I was being spammed by an organisation of some dubiousness.
I was by this point standing outside, in front of my house. The voice in my ear grew clearer. It even sounded familiar. And it was saying things that further pinged my familiarity-sensors, in that I heard the words “Green Book” and “Nebula.” These were words I knew.
Then I heard “Nomination,” and I shrieked.
I am not even kidding. I was standing in front of my house in late afternoon light and I shrieked and heard this wonderful, kind voice laughing in my ear and I thought this is Mary and I said “I’m so sorry who is this?” and heard Mary Robinette Kowal say her name and I babbled that I THOUGHT it was her but I couldn’t tell because I hadn’t heard the first half and I DIDN’T KNOW THEY CALLED PEOPLE TO TELL THEM and Mary laughed and said, “this is why we call people. To hear this.”
This year — for literally the first time in five years — I found myself thinking, “huh, I wonder if I should update my contact information with SFWA. The phone number’s probably old. I mean what if I’m nominated for a HAHAHAHAHHAHA NO THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN SHUSH YOUR WISHFUL FACE.”
So I received an embargoed email instead.
But the flailing and the astonishment and the clamping down on it all for the requisite number of days until the official announcement all melt away into the joy of seeing the rest of the list. I’ve read and loved about a third of what’s on it, and am very, very excited to get to what I haven’t, especially Nora Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, Usman T. Malik’s “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn,” and Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti.
This year, 2016 so far — it’s been relentlessly difficult in ways I’ve not been keen to talk about publicly. Suffice it to say that the two most important women in my life have been in and out of hospitals since I arrived back from Glasgow, and the stress and worry and fear has been an acid bath for my senses for almost two months, up until literally yesterday. Everything’s been so upheaved that I hesitate, even now, to say things are better, things are OK, because of the hairpin turns and whiplash my nerves have been enduring.
I imagined grief so much it felt more like a memory. Which could be a tagline for “Madeleine,” I think, if pastiches of life-changing musicals can be taglines for short fiction.
What I’m trying to say is, receiving this nomination means the world to me. It came at a time when I desperately needed to feel something that wasn’t panicked helplessness. It came at a time when our field is bursting at the seams with incredible, dazzling, magnificent writing, so much of which is represented on this ballot. To see “Madeleine” in such company makes me feel like the only sensible thing to do is dissolve into this gratitude and make myself out again into something brighter, better, more worthy.
Congratulations to all the finalists.