Paul Di Filippo
The only award I’ve ever won and received–a BSFA for Best Short Story–misspelled my name on the trophy. My “validation” of all I knew about my career was complete.
There are literally hundreds of awards, but since I never get any, I don’t pay a lot of attention.
I also agree with the comments of Andy, Brett, Liz. I guess I might say a few personal things.
I was so lucky as to win the Nebula Award for best novella in 1982 (for “Another Orphan”) on my very first nomination. At that point I was probably one of the most obscure writers ever to win the Nebula. I was of course overjoyed, but I also was intimidated. It took me some time to figure out what this meant about me as a writer. What should I be writing? How could I best use this as a springboard for my career? My god, what would people expect from me next? Was it time to do a novel?
Self-involved as I was, given the fact that the winners of these awards are a matter of happenstance and luck, and that three months later nobody remembers who won, my fretting about this was ludicrous. I eventually got over it, wrote whatever I was likely to have written anyway, and the world kept turning. I was grateful to have won, and that was that.
Winning for “Pride and Prometheus” twenty-six years later was an entirely different experience. I was very happy to have my story appreciated and spoken of. It made me feel that I was still at least somewhat relevant to the field. But mostly what I felt was a great affection for the unruly community that is science fiction and fantasy, of which I am and have been a part since long before I ever published a word.
When I was a kid I spent much of my emotional life submerged in the world of sf, and then later I was a fan, then later an aspiring writer, then eventually a published one. I also to some degree developed an identity completely outside the field; I became a lit professor and an academic and a teacher of fiction writing regardless of genre. But winning a Nebula in my late 50s re-affirmed my sf identity, and meant more to me than the recognition I have received outside of sf. I felt at home among my fellow sf writers, and very grateful to have their acknowledgment.
I agree with much of what’s been said already but find it hard to comment on awards, because I am somewhat cynical about them. It does seem to me that while most of the time many are rightly given, there are times when the amount of career savviness, ability to self-promote, and even economic means may prove major factors that skew results.
At the same time, often we live such solitary existences as writers that it’s immensely wonderful to be reminded of one of the reasons we’re writing – to reach other people – and it’s a delight to know that we’ve succeeded.
Like others on this list, I really like the idea that the awards are celebrating the field as much as the individual writers, both uniting the field and helping compensate a bit for the abuse that gets heaped on genre fiction. I look to the award lists when I’m trying to catch up on reading or find new stuff, and find them very useful in that regard.
When I think about awards, I keep remembering Con Jose in 2002. Neil Gaiman had just won the Hugo for Best Novel (his first, I believe), and after a few minutes of talking about how much he’d loved SF as a kid, and how much he’d day-dreamed about being part of the field, he suddenly stopped, looked down at the rocket ship in his hand, and said, rather in the voice of the astonished eight-year-old who had once day-dreamed: “Fuck. I won a HUGO.”
I also think that awards ceremonies are an excuse to show ourselves, the world, and each other that although we are geeks and nerds, we clean up pretty good.
With a job where you can work in your bathrobe, or in the clothes that DO NOT GO OUTSIDE any more, dressing up can be fun.