With the permission of the winners, here are the transcripts of the speeches from the 2020 Hugo Awards, with links to the videos and any thoughts they have posted. I wanted to gather them all in one place and make them as accessible as possible.
There are a few missing from folks that haven’t responded yet. If you are one of those winners, please let me know if I can add your transcript in!
Many thanks to Mary Robinette Kowal, who let me host this here, Chelsea Outlaw, who made the wonderful cut of When The Toastmaster Talks Less, Elsa Sjunneson for accessibility check, and Amy Brennan, who helped with transcription. And so many thanks to *all* the Hugo finalists, for sharing your hearts and souls and hard work with us.
Jump to speech (in alphabetical order):
R. F. Kuang – Astounding Award for Best New Writer
Hi. Thank you so much. Thank you to everyone who voted, it means a lot. And thank you to my agent, Hannah Bowman, and my editors, David Pomerico and Natasha Bardon, for everything they’ve done for my career.
Just quickly, the Astounding Award is the award for the best new writer. But if I were talking to a new writer coming to the genre in 2020, I would tell them:
“Well, if you’re an author of color, you will very likely be paid only a fraction of the advance that white writers are getting. You will be pigeonholed, you will be miscategorized, you will be lumped in with other authors of color whose work doesn’t remotely resemble yours.
“The chances are very high that you will be sexually harassed at conventions, or the target of racist microaggressions, or very often just overt racism. People will mispronounce your name repeatedly, and in public, even people who are on your publishing team.
“Your cover art will be racist – you will have to push against that. And the way people talk about you and your literature will be tied to your identity and your personal trauma instead of the stories you are actually trying to tell.”
And if I had known all of that when I went into the industry, I don’t know if I would have done it. So I think that the best way that we can celebrate new writers is to make this industry more welcoming for everyone.
Naomi Kritzer – Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
Thank you all so very much for this honor. Catfishing on Catnet is the story about the power of online friendship, about how online friends are real friends, and the virtual world is a real place that can provide kindness, support, love, meaning, and understanding.
This year has forced all of us to explore ways to connect to virtual space and to discover both its strengths and its limitations. Thank you to everyone who read this book, and I’m so glad that it spoke to you.
I would like to thank my editor Susan Chang for her insight, patience, and encouragement, as well as all the members of the Wyrdsmiths writers group: Lyda Morehouse, Eleanor Arnason, Theo Lorenz, Adam Stemple, and Kelly Barnhill.
Finally, I would like to thank my husband, Ed and my children, Molly and Kiera, who are just off camera, who have given me love, support, belief, and occasional slack with household chores when my deadlines were imminent. I love everyone in this bar, thank you all so much.
Elise Matthesen – Best Fan Artist
Thank you so much. Thank you for being part of the haiku earring parties. Thank you to everybody who ever wrote something inspired by the shinies. Thank you for making this my best job ever. Thank you for inspirations and collaborations, and special thanks to Amal El-Mohtar and Fran Wilde for those. Thank you to Shawna Brown, best road-trip convention-room buddy ever.
Art is not a sprint or a marathon, art is a relay race. We are given something, we build it into something new and we pass that along. Powerful art can call you to the work that needs you to do it. The art recognizes you and you recognize it. You take it, you make what you can of it, and you pass it along, because art that is passed along lives.
Thank you so much for this. I look forward to seeing the art we all make together in the future.
Bogi Takács – Best Fan Writer
Thank you everyone for thinking of me, for voting for me, for spreading the word. I’m really grateful.
I would like to celebrate by spreading the word even further, I’m going to be recommending you more fan writers and book reviewers who you might want to follow and read and vote for. You probably voted for me at least in part because you like my lists, so now I’m going to have a list!
- LaShawn M. Wanak currently reviews for Lightspeed and she’s also an awesome fiction writer, check her out everywhere!
- LaTonya Pennington has the best takes on magical girl themes and also the best comics recommendations
- Samira Nadkarni, who reviews for Strange Horizons right now, with some very lengthy and insightful reviews
- Silvia Moreno-Garcia always has the unconventional and many many international books, also I’m going to say, buy her books and make the yellow duck happy!
- Charles Payseur is on the ballot in Best Fanzine for Quick Sip Reviews, he has an immense breadth of short story reviewing
- Vanessa Fogg also reviews short stories, with much grace and insight
- Maria Haskins is awesome and her monthly short story roundups are always a delight
- Amal El-Mohtar who you might know better as a fiction writer and a poet, but who’s also a very thoughtful reviewer
- Tsana Dolichva has detailed reviews of both comics and fiction in SFF, for all ages, she is one of the highlights of my Goodreads account
- Corey Alexander knows everything about queer romance and shares kindly
Whew! I hope you enjoyed the list! Thank you to everyone else for their writing, and also thank you to my family who support me, especially my spouse R.B. Lemberg and our kid Mati.
I also want to say a few words about life. In both of my countries of citizenship, political extremism has been on the rise. In the US, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigenous, racist and anti-immigrant sentiments have increased and are increasingly accepted in the public sphere. In Hungary, the government is demolishing independent media and curbing the civil rights of minorities while the EU stands by and does nothing – most recently, attacking trans people. It would be false to assume that these events do not influence speculative fiction and fandom in particular.
Some of what I have to say in English is unpublishable in Hungarian, and who knows how long it’s going to be publishable in English either. I often feel like the simple act of speaking is an uphill battle – at conventions, online on social media, anywhere really. So if you feel like that – you’re not alone. I am going to continue speaking as much as I can, and working toward solidarity as best as I can. Thank you for listening, és akkor magyarul is, köszönöm szépen.
Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders – Best Fancast
Charlie Jane: Thank you so much for this award. This really means so much to us.
Annalee: Yeah, it’s especially great because we’re an entirely listener-supported podcast. So you listening and donating is what helps us live.
Charlie Jane: Our podcast is explicitly about the relationship between science fiction and society. And we believe that the unexamined story is not worth reading or writing. And science fiction is political because everything we do is political and we believe that stories become richer and more meaningful the more we analyze them.
Annalee: And right now, more than ever, we need stories that tell us about how we can rise up and change the world. But at the same time, we also need stories that help us escape, just to ease our pain and give us hope that this too shall pass. So we thank you so much for writing those stories and for believing in them.
And also, we thank our producer, Veronica Simonetti at Women’s Audio Mission in San Francisco where we record this podcast and I’d like to thank Jesse Burns and Chris Palmer, my partners who put up with all this nonsense.
Both: So thank you, you guys. Bye. Bye!
Ana Grilo and Thea James – Best Fanzine
We are being wholly, utterly honest when we say HOLY GUACAMOLE, we did not see this coming. Thank you, fellow fans, readers, writers, and creators so much.
We know that it can be frowned upon to be Political at the Hugos, but we also know that everything is political, so f that. We have been running The Book Smugglers for over ten years, as two loud, opinionated women on the internet–one of us Filipino-American and the other Brazilian. We have been giving space for diverse voices to be heard, read, and seen, and we know now that is even more important now than it has ever been, in the fight for social justice in the face of fascism, systemic oppression, and racism around the world. Black lives matter.
So thank you so much for this award–our very first Hugo. Thank you for seeing us, for hearing us, for believing that our work matters.
Thank you to all of our fellow nominees, and to our regular contributors–especially Charles Payseur and A.C. Wise.
Thank you to all of the readers and friends who have supported us throughout the years. To everyone who keeps coming back to read The Book Smugglers–we are nothing without you. Special shoutout to Sparkle Rocket and to the Filipino contingent at the Hugos.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ana is now the first Brazilian to ever win a Hugo. (Valeu Brasil!)
Finally, a huge thank you to the television show Lost–without which The Book Smugglers would never have happened.
Thank you again, from the bottom of our SFF-loving hearts, and remember to stay safe, wash your hands, and wear a mask.
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas – Best Semiprozine
Michael: We are so deeply honored by this best semiprozine Hugo award, and we really wish that all of us could have been together in person tonight. It was such a fabulous group of finalists, filled with friends and colleagues, so many wonderful magazines! Everybody should go out and subscribe to all these magazines and read them because they are truly marvelous.
Lynne: Uncanny Magazine is the work of numerous people. So we want to thank our 2019 regular staff of Michi Trota, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Erika Ensign, Steven Schapansky, Joy Piedmont, Angel Cruz, and Caroline M. Yoachim. All of our submissions editors, every contributor, the coNZealand membership. And of course our ombudsman and world’s greatest daughter Kaitlin.
Michael: And finally, a thank you every single member of the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps. We couldn’t do this without the support of our community.
Lynne: Shine on, Space Unicorns!
(Lynne and Michael asked that this be added)
We’d also like to thank our Disabled People Destroy Fantasy guest editors Nicolette Barischoff, Lisa M. Bradley, and Katharine Duckett. (We want to apologize to them. We accidentally omitted them from our Hugo acceptance speech.)
Chimedum Ohaegbu – Best Semiprozine
Hi! I’m Chimedum Ohaegbu, Uncanny Magazine’s managing editor, and this is my first-ever Hugo win! I’m the first Black woman editor to win a Hugo in the semiprozine category, not the first to be nominated but among the first, and it’s an odd position to be in because Black women have always been here and deserving in the genre, not just as writers but also as curators, editors, and arbiters of what speculative fiction can look like. So, yeah, this has been a long time coming.
And it’s been a long year: we are literally in the middle of a pandemic, and despite that, Black people here in Canada, down in the States, around the world, and yes, in science fiction and fantasy publishing, have had to fight for rights and respect we should already have. So we look to speculative fiction for respite or for stories to top off our rage; to imagine futures and presents free of police and policing; and for stories that are with us in the fight and that remind us what we’re fighting for.
I’m so glad that Uncanny has gotten to publish some of these stories, alongside other excellent publications doing the same. Thank you to our authors for letting Uncanny be home to your words. And thank you so much to my teammates at the magazine, without which this wouldn’t have been possible: Editors in Chief Lynne and Michael Thomas, Managing Editor Michi Trota, Nonfiction Editor Elsa Sjunneson, Assistant Editor Angel Cruz, Podcast Producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Podcast Reader Joy Piedmont, Interviewer Caroline M. Yoachim, and all of our submissions editors.
Black writers, Black stories, and Black editors matter now; we mattered in the past, despite racists’ opinions and policies; and we will matter in the futures that we create, the histories that we reclaim, the horrors that we rework, in all of the speculative genres and arts. Thank you.
Michi Trota – Best Semiprozine
Thank you to everyone who voted for and has supported Uncanny! It’s an honor to share this category with the teams behind Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Escape Pod, Fireside, FIYAH, and Strange Horizons, who are all doing stellar and inspiring work in SF/F. This Hugo Award is especially meaningful because 2019 was my last year of eligibility as part of Uncanny’s staff. I can’t express how grateful I am to have this award as an end cap to my time with Uncanny.
To all my 2019 Uncanny teammates, thank you for everything. I’m so proud of the work that we did together, and thankful to have contributed to such an amazing publication and community alongside you all. I’m especially excited to see how Chimie is now making the role of Managing Editor her own, and am so lucky to have gotten the chance to know her while we were on staff together.
Being Uncanny’s Managing and Nonfiction Editor was life changing, and while I took many lessons from my time on staff, the most meaningful one to me is this: when you have the means to widen the doorway & bring others up with you, especially if you have power and privilege: DO IT. We have a responsibility to be aware of the power we have and how we choose to use it because those choices can change everything. Keep choosing wisely, Space Unicorns. I will always believe in you. Thank you so much.
John Picacio – Best Professional Artist
This is unexpected! The Locus was unexpected too, that Solstice earlier was unexpected. I don’t know why this is my year. This is a bizarre year.
This is an awful year for so many of us. First, I gotta recognize who I’m with in this category.
Tommy Arnold is blowing doors right now. I mean, the stuff that he’s doing for the covers for Tor right now are just amazing. Galen Dara, I’ve loved your work for the last decade. You know, you already won Best Fan Artist – I think you got that in 2012 – and you’re going to get Best Pro Artist before you’re done, you’re going to have both of these things. Rovina Cai, I’m a super fan of your work. I adore it. Alyssa, I’m new to your work and I love the way you handle yourself. I love your work. You’re a superstar. Yuko Shimizu, you’re amazing, you’re beyond SFF, you’re loved throughout the whole contemporary illustration world and I just adore your stuff.
Thank you to Irene Gallo. Leigh Bardugo, my literary agent, Joanna Volpe, (and I did say literary agent) for supporting me this year.
Shout out to all my Mexicanx family. I love you guys so much, and I look forward to you guys being in this position for many, many years to come. We were here two years ago in San Jose together at a Worldcon, and you guys are going to be in this position, over and over and over, and I’ll be there with you.
Thank you to everybody who supported Loteria, which I know is a lot of why I’m getting this this year. That is my sort of, independent project that I’ve been creating for the last several years. It’s a visual series that will be eventually turned into a book and I’m very proud of the work. And I’ve got a lot more to go.
I’m just gonna sign off here by saying that we’ve got a very tough next several weeks heading into November and we’re going to have to fight to get through this. We’re gonna have to stick together and we’ve got a lot of battling to do. Let’s go, big job ahead.
I love you guys. All of you out there in the Worldcon community. Thank you so much. Signing off. Take care.
Navah Wolfe – Best Editor Long Form
Thank you so much, to all of you. This is a tremendous honor, and it means so much to me, this year especially.
When Saga eliminated my position last year, right after I won a Hugo Award, and while I was expecting a new baby, there was a minute where I felt very alone, and isolated from the industry I had grown to love, and the people within it.
But it only lasted a minute.
The moment I announced my news, the tremendous and instant outpouring of love and support from the people who had made this industry feel like a home immediately reminded me that I would always have a home here, no matter what. That this industry, and you brilliant, talented people who make it so weird and so wonderful, had made a space for me. And so this Hugo Award, while already so tremendously gratifying, means more to me than ever.
It is once again worth noting that we work in a world, in an industry, where women, people of color, and people of marginalized backgrounds can be award-winning in their fields, and still have to deal with getting passed over and marginalized by the people that they work with. It is not appropriate, and it is not okay, and as an industry, we have to work to make the changes we want to see in our world.
And that is one of the reasons why our work as editors, as shapers of stories, is so important. Because when the world is feeling dark and hope is hard to come by, now more than ever it is essential that we look to our fiction to help us shape the futures we want to see. This is why the books we publish, the stories we tell, are critical, now and always, and why I feel both overwhelmed and lucky to know that I have had a hand in helping those stories reach the people who need them most.
A few quick thank yous.
Thank you first to my family, my husband and my three small humans, who I am lucky enough to get to weather a pandemic with. I couldn’t ask for a better quarantine crew. And thank you to my parents and siblings, who have always been my biggest and best supporters.
Thank you to my dear friends and colleagues at Subterranean Press, where I am lucky enough to be editing novellas. Yanni, Bill, Geralyn, Gwenda and the entire SubPress team are some of the very best people in our industry, and I am honored to get to make beautiful books with them.
Thank you to the staff of CoNZealand, who worked so hard to put together a virtual convention and virtual Hugo Awards, to bring us together to celebrate the remarkable works of our industry even while we’re physically so far apart.
Thank you to my fellow nominees, both the five other women in my category, and the finalists on the whole ballot. It’s an honor simply to be included in your number.
And thank you most of all to the brilliant writers whose books I’ve had the privilege of working on. Thank you for trusting me with your works, your characters, your worlds. Thank you for letting me help bring your stories to the readers who need them. Thank you for letting me be your partner in trying to change this world for the better, one story at a time.
Finally, thank you once again to all of you, for this award. I am overwhelmed and honored to accept.
Ellen Datlow – Best Editor, Short Form
Hi. (By the way, George, I really love your hats).
Thank you. Thank you for this great honor. Thank you to CoNZealand for your hard work in creating the first virtual Worldcon. I know it’s been difficult, and I know it’s disappointing that we aren’t all there in person, and hopefully we’ll be able to do another one in the future.
Thank you to my fellow nominees. You are all amazing. Thank you to the voters. And finally, thank you to all the writers who make my job such a pleasure. I hope to see you all in person next year in Washington D.C. Thank you.
Neil Gaiman – Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
You know, having seen the list of the other nominees, I find it very difficult to believe that Good Omens has won the Hugo Award for 2020. I made Good Omens because Terry Pratchett asked me to. I didn’t want to.
I had absolutely no intention of spending years of my life writing and then showrunning a television series, but Terry asked. And I owed him that. And I did. I had lots of collaborators, hundreds of collaborators, making this: all the amazing people on our cast and crew. I particularly want to thank the indomitable Douglas Mackinnon, our director, and Michael Sheen and David Tennant, our angel and our demon.
But the most important collaborator, for me, wasn’t there. He was there in my imagination, looking over my shoulder at everything I wrote, everything we shot, and telling me exactly what he thought of it – often in no uncertain terms.
Terry never won a Hugo. The only time he was nominated for a Hugo Award, he actually withdrew the novel from consideration, telling people that if he had a book nominated for a Hugo, it would ruin his WorldCon with worrying.
It wasn’t that he didn’t care. It was that he cared too much.
For all of the awards that he got, for all the acclamation, for all of the honors and the love heaped upon Terry during his lifetime, the one he really cared about was the Hugo Award. And he would grumble about it to me, pointing out that he was never going to get one, because they were never going to give a Hugo Award to anything funny.
Thank you, all of you, for giving Terry Pratchett his Hugo Award.
Jeannette Ng – Best Related Work
Pulling down memorials to dead racists is not the erasing of history, it is how we make history.
I am proud to celebrate that with you here. And I am humbled to have contributed in this small way to these conversations, these revolutions within and without our genre.
Not that I thought I was being all that controversial. Moorcock has been calling Campbell a fascist for years. But I lack Moorcock’s context, and my voice is shriller and well, I am not white. That makes me sound angrier. I become graceless and vulgar.
But I really didn’t think I was saying anything new. Anything you didn’t already know. I wasn’t speaking to make change. I thought everyone already knew and this was okay. They were okay with it. It’s what normal looked like to me.
So thank you to everyone who made it happen, who actually made it happen. Thank you to Alec Nevala Lee who wrote the book and brought the receipts.
I am grateful that you all proved me wrong. In this at least. Because it doesn’t end here.
It would be irresponsible for me to stand here and congratulate us as a community without reminding us that the fight isn’t over, and it extends well beyond the pages of our books. My dusty academic soul does not dream easily of futures. So I can’t make pronouncements about our genre, except that I want it to be something beyond my feeble imagination.
I also know that for many, these will be truths as old as their bones. Forgotten things become new only because we forget, and historians like me can be just as guilty.
Let us be better than the legacies that have been left us. Let them not be prophecies. Let there be a revolution in our time.
Last time I gave a speech at WorldCon, it was literally hours after a march in Hong Kong, my most cyberpunk of cities. Since then, things have gotten worse.
Each of our worlds shrink in a pandemic. I mean, I’m literally telling you all this from my attic. But I am begging you not to look away from Hong Kong.
Because we have more in common than ever before. The tactics used to marginalize us, the tear gas thrown at us, it is the same everywhere.
And we fight them the same way. So we should come together to write a future of joy and hope and change.
Now is the time. Now was always the time. 光復香港時伐革命 Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time.
One more thing: I have this hat, it was given to me last year. It does a thing, it does this. *hat squeaks*
Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck as James S. A. Corey – Best Series
Daniel Abraham here. About a decade ago, Ty Franck and I started writing a series of books for giggles and pizza money, and now here we are. It is incredibly gratifying to be in this company and to be among these people. It means a tremendous amount to us that the series has been acknowledged like this. We owe tremendous debts of gratitude to a great number of people, and we will be expressing that privately later on.
Right now, we want to thank the writers who come before us and who been around us and who have created this genre that we are part of the conversation with, and the next generations that are coming up now and broadening that vision and broadening that conversation and broadening that perspective in ways that make it richer.
Science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction are more and more important in a world as the technology moves forward and as the questions of humanity and the ties that we have to each other become more and more at issue: not just in our fiction, but in our world and our news. It is an incredible honor to be part of the conversation and an incredible honor to be here tonight and to be with you and thank you all very, very much.
S. L. Huang – Best Short Story
This story is so hard for me. It’s so hard for me to understand the atrocities that people commit against each other. And sometimes it feels like we’ll never solve this, that there will always be more, whether it’s 1945 or 2020: with the brutal oppression of the protesters in Hong Kong, with black Americans being murdered on the streets here in my country, and so much else around the globe.
But I do believe that we can fight. We can keep pushing. We can carve out pockets of goodness in the world and keep pushing those pockets farther and farther in our countries, our industries, our communities. And thank you, especially tonight, to the people who speak up and stand up for justice here in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
I would like to dedicate this award tonight to my editor for this story, Diana Gill, who also brilliantly edited all of my novels up until now. And I’m so furious and sad that the pandemic has caused her to lose her job as my editor and Diana, I wish you all the great things in the world. Thank you so much for everything.
More thanks: to my agents Russell Galen and Angela Cheng Caplan, to my writing communities and crit partners (particularly my first readers for this story, Maddox Hahn, Toria Hegedus, and Rob Livermore), and my sister, always and forever.
Finally, a huge shout out to my fellow short story finalists for writing some of the most absolutely amazing fiction I have read this year. You all are incredible. You blow my mind and it has been my absolute honor to share this category with you. Thank you.
Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – Best Novella
Max Gladstone: Kia Ora, everyone! We’re so, so honored to accept this award. Thank you so much, to everyone who read and loved This Is How You Lose the Time War, and to everyone who voted for it in a year when our fellow finalists are just so staggeringly brilliant. We admire you and your work so much, and it’s been a real honor to be part of this cohort.
Amal El-Mohtar: We’re forever grateful to everyone who helped make all of this possible—to all of the volunteers at CoNZealand, who’ve been working so hard to do absolutely unprecedented work on this scale. Thank you so much to all of the stuff that you’ve done to make this possible.
And to everyone who made our book possible! To Navah Wolfe, the best editor we could have hoped for (and the BEST EDITOR point final! Boom! Has now won a Hugo twice!!), to DongWon Song, our extraordinary agent, and to everyone at Saga Press & Jo Fletcher Books who worked to get our book into the world, including but not limited to Greg Stadnyk, Molly Powell, Jo Fletcher, and Milly Reid.
Max: I’d like to thank my wife Stephanie, always and forever. My parents and my sister also, for their constant support since since I was phonetically spelling stories in scrap notebooks. Bob and Sally Neely who given copies of my books to literally everyone they know—and Uncle Danny for the Zelazny and Leiber and Uncle Paul who gave me the Star Trek VHS tapes, back when those were a thing. Love you all.
Amal: I want to thank my husband Stu for everything from tea to terrible puns, to being extremely nervous with me throughout this! To my parents and siblings for a lifetime of cheering on my writing, for their steadiness and constancy in the face of so many upheavals. I can never thank them enough.
Max: Annual celebrations—anniversaries, cons— they have a way of sneaking up on you. There’s a cascading, lightning quality to the memories they evoke: you’re living your everyday life and then all of a sudden you cross some invisible threshold and there you are, connected with last year and the year before, all the way back to the beginning. And even earlier than that.
Amal: For many of us, this WorldCon may feel like a break in a chain; but we invite you to think of it, instead, as a broadening of space, a widening of our circles. In a sense this is as “world” as the con has ever been; its a vision of WorldCon in a world where the only borders are lines in time.
Max: To travel in time you have to understand time. There’s no one history of the world—every telling leaves things and people out. But everything that happens, has happened.
Amal: We’re taught history as if it’s a letter written from the past and addressed to us, but if that’s true it’s a letter from a sybil or a spy, allusive, full of hidden meanings and secret writing. The work of a lifetime is learning to read between its lines—and then, learning to reply.
Max: But you can’t write back to the past. You can only write to the future. So, write.
Amal: Write, we have always fucking been here.
Max: Write, it doesn’t have to be like this.
Amal: Write, it gets better, because we will make it better, together.
Max: Write, this is how we win.
Amal: Kia Ora. Thank you all, so so much
Arkady Martine – Best Novel
Thank you all so very, very much. This is rather overwhelming – as you might expect – but I am going to do my best to tell you how grateful I am for your choice in giving this book the 2020 Best Novel Hugo.
It’s an especially sharp honor to receive this award for my first novel – it is a kind of welcome. An invitation to stay. A gesture of hospitality from all of you. A gesture that I deeply appreciate and which I wish so very profoundly was more easily extended to the authors, artists, editors, and fans of color who deserve as much hospitality as I do. A Memory Called Empire is in some ways a book about the inhospitability of so much of the universe: the inhospitability of culture, of origins, of desire. The pull of exile and the counterpull of dominance. The empire and its edges; the knife that hurts more because you’d loved it before it cut you.
I think a great deal about what it means to be welcome in a place. I wrote a book which considers whether someone ever can truly be made welcome. In this current world – where we are isolated by illness and by political corruption, where I have listened all night to the tension between an idealized simpler past and a complex, difficult, and brilliant present – where all the lines of exile and longing for familiarity are drawn ever-tighter and more painful – I’m still not sure about the answer to that question. In my book I let Mahit Dzmare have a version of the answer: for her, to be welcomed into the heart of empire is to lose the ability to truly go home inside her own mind. For me that’s actually a hopeful answer, for me – a person who cannot stop writing about exile, and about desire – who is an American, and a Jew, and a climate activist, and a historian, and who keeps falling in love with things bigger than her head, however unwisely. It is a hopeful answer to know that there is not a solution. Not a good one.
But right here and right now I feel like I might summon up a different sort of answer for myself, about welcome. In this corner of the universe that I share with you all – virtually, at the moment, but also cross-temporally, stretched from the time when I first read science fiction as a child and thought, oh, I wish I could talk to the writer who made this, and ask them how, and why, and whether I’ve noticed the right things about it – from there all the way to now, and from now for the rest of my life going forward. Here, I have been made welcome. Thank you for inviting me in. Thank you for seeing the work I am trying to do, the sort of stories I am trying to tell. What doors I can hold open and what belaying ropes I can send back down I will.
I want to thank my father, who gave me science fiction when I was far too small to know better – we called it science affliction and I am gladly afflicted at the moment – my mother, who had the temerity to ask me if I was quitting academia to be a writer (she was right, and I denied it when she asked me) – my magnificent agent, DongWon Song, and my brilliant editor, Devi Pillai, who combined to make me write all the parts of this book that should have been there all along – and always and most importantly, my wife Viv: all the stories are for you. You hang the stars and I couldn’t do this without you.
Thank you all again so much.