My Hugo acceptance speech plus thoughts on what it’s like to be given one.

I am slightly calmer now, although I do keep looking over at the Hugo to make certain it is real.  There are three questions people kept asking me after the Hugos.

  1. Who did your hair? – Dolly and Rhonda who were amazing and wonderful.
  2. Did you write the lyrics to the Retro Hugos song? – No. Those were written by the very clever Mark Osier and sung to the tune of “Anything Goes.”
  3. What does it feel like to win a Hugo? – I grew up reading Hugo award winning work. I mean, I’d pick things out specifically because of that and still do. These people seemed like they were in a sort of heroic pantheon, so the idea that I have a story in that group? It’s sort of baffling and overwhelming. If I think about it too much, I get a little teary.

Here. You can listen to my voice shaking in my acceptance speech.

And a transcript… plus one bit in brackets that I forgot because I left my speech in my reticule.

I had actually just said, “I’m calling it for Aliette. But it might be Ted.” That I was not expecting, thank you all very much.

I’d like to thank Ellen Klages, who let me read the story out loud to her on a long drive to WisCon. I want to thank my Dad, who used to work in programming at IBM back in the punchcard days, and inspired me to write a punchcard punk universe. I want to thank Mike Fink, the astronaut who let me ask him questions. ( Astronaut! Oh my god!) And Gardner Dozois for asking me to write him a story. [Thank you to Patrick Nielsen Hayden who ran the story on Tor.com.]

And I also want to thank my grandmother, who is– who passed away in March at the age of 109, (I know, a hundred and nine!) whotaught me about aging gracefully and that 65 is not old. 70 is not old. 80 is not old. And even when you are old, you can still be wonderful and powerful.

Thank you all very much.

2014 Hugo for best noveletteMany, many thanks.

After the awards, John Chu, Aidan Moher, and I went over to the fan village to circulate. When I won my first Hugo (and I love that sentence. Ee!) John Scalzi took me around to the fan parties, rather than going to the Hugo Losers’ party.  This year it was called the Hugo Nominees party, but I still think that the tradition of the winners going among the fan parties is an important one. Sure, it gives the other finalists time to commiserate and look at the stats, but — and I think this is more important — it gives the people who actually voted for the awards a chance to see the thing and hold it.

I mean, the Hugo awards are by and for the fans. It only seems sensible to let them share in the joy of that night. I remember what it was like to read those works, before I was writing. I remember the first time I saw a Hugo live and in person (At Ursula K. Le Guin’s house — OMG!!!! So name-dropping but also so much squee there) and the sort of awe it gave me, even though I totally understand the popularity aspect and that it’s technically just a hunk of metal. (A very, very pretty hunk of metal and, in my case, glass)

But here’s the thing — we joke about “It’s an honour just to be nominated,” which is totally true. There are a lot of stories in any given year and to be noticed by a significant enough number of readers to make the ballot– that’s an honour. To be given a Hugo is amazing. So I take the award out with me to let folks see the tangible representation of the very great honour they have given me.

Because that’s what an award is. It’s not a hunk of glass or metal, it’s a tangible representation of the fact that a given work has made a connection with readers. And that connection? That is all any writer wants.

So thank you again, and again for the honour.

And the very pretty tangible award, which is totally going on my mantle because OMG rocket.

22 Responses

  1. Rayna

    Gratz on the win, that story brought me to tears when I read it on Tor.com. Thanks for sharing it freely with everyone, it really touches on something special and unique to the female experience.

  2. Domo

    Thanks for sharing the joy of your Hugo at the Scott Lynch signing in London. Made my son really happy, and helped me see the light past a fearsome writing dry spell.

    The magic of sympathy and contagion at it’s finest :)

  3. Lou Sytsma (aka @olddarth)

    Hi Mary.

    Loved your story and congrats on the win.

    Have a question about your story, wonder if you can answer here or maybe on the Writing Excuses.

    During the feedback process from your Beta Readers were there any remarks about including Dorothy in your story? It’s the one element of the story that really confused me at first – kept expecting Dorothy to play a much bigger part in the story.

    Her character could be altered to be anybody with little impact on the story. Was the Oz mythos something you wanted to invoke with her inclusion? For myself that mythos kept intruding on the story you were telling.

    Mayhap I lack the necessary mental faculties to separate the Oz mythos from the one you created.

    It was the relationship between Elma and Nathaniel and their mutual respect of each other’s abilities that make this story so well for me.

    Congrats on creating two such fully realized characters in such a small amount of story.

    Best wishes

    Lou

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      That’s very easy. This story was originally written for an anthology called Rip-off. Every story in the anthology began with the first sentence of a famous story.

      As it happens, my very, very first sales were to a magazine called The First Line. The premise of which is that if you handed “Call me Ishmael” to Mark Twain, you would not get Moby Dick. So when I picked Wizard of Oz for Rip-Off, I didn’t want to do an Oz retelling. I wanted to tell a different story that began with the same first line, which is why that’s not Dorothy Gale. That’s Dorothy Williams. I actively tried to avoid having any overt Oz mythos in the story and the parts that my writing group flagged, I pulled out.

      1. Lou Sytsma (aka @olddarth)

        Ah! That explains it.

        And as has been proven you did a wonderful telling your own story from it.

        Thanks for the story background and clearing that up for me.

        Best wishes.

        Lou

  4. Nina Niskanen

    This is your third Hugo, yes? Is it still as thrilling as it was the first time?

    Also a huge thank you on my part for bringing the Hugo to the fan village. It was kind of sad (while also being completely understandable) how much the authors separated themselves from the fans at Loncon so I know it meant a huge deal to a lot of us to see the three of you parading your Hugos and receiving congratulations.

    (Also, I GOT TO HOLD A HUGO!!!!)

  5. John

    Hi.
    You gave me a fan, and an autograph, although I didn’t know who you were…
    But at the Hugo awards ceremony, when your story won – I realised I had voted for you!
    Being able to vote for a Hugo, for the first time ever, I took it rather seriously and read the stories; but this was weeks ago and I had forgotten who the authors were, since I don’t read much SF these days.
    Thank you for a lovely story.

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