Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The 2015 Nebula Awards weekend

I'm newly home from Chicago and a wonderful experience: SFWA's annual -- and, as it happened, the 50th -- Nebula Awards weekend. SFWA, of course, is the Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (In this instance, not a typo. When fantasy authors demanded equal billing in the organization's name, maintaining the historical acronym and logo required that odd mixed capitalization.) The Nebulas, awarded annually by SFWA for specific works of fiction, are among the highest honors in the genre.

Photo from Locus
An even higher honor is the Solstice Award, "granted in recognition of the positive impact and influence the recipients and their work have had on the science fiction and fantasy genres." This year's honorees were Joanna Russ and Stanley Schmidt. Stan, of course, was the long-time editor of Analog. Over the years I've come to know Stan as a mentor, colleague, and friend. It was great to see him honored.

Larry & Ed at Nebula Awards (2015)
But the highest SFWA recognition, IMO, is the SFWA Grandmaster Award. This year's honoree was Larry Niven, recognized "for his invaluable contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy" (he writes both). Larry is my frequent collaborator and friend, and I was invited to join the panel at a Niven-retrospective session and to contribute a written appreciation. I was happy to oblige, and here's what I wrote.

An Appreciation of Larry Niven

What can I say about Larry Niven? To begin, what any fan would tell you: he’s written one hell of a lot of great SF. His stories and books have won more awards than you can shake a stick at. Even a really big stick. Then there’s what his colleagues would say: he’s a nice guy, a master craftsman, and, for many of us, a role model. But on a personal note, I can say a bit more.
I’ve been a fan of Larry’s writing since the Sixties and “Neutron Star.” Intrepid adventurer, alien aliens, exotic setting, cutting-edge physics—neutron stars were still just theory back then—and a mind-blowing puzzle. This was groovy stuff! (It was the Sixties, I remind you. We said stuff like that.) And Larry’s Known Space kept expanding, kept getting even better, with gems like “The Borderlands of Sol, ” Protector, and—especially—the Nebula Award-winning Ringworld. His collaborations were as outstanding.
But we didn’t meet till the next millenium, in a couple of Worldcon encounters that, I suspect, were entirely unremarkable to him. But to me? More than a big deal. I emailed Larry a few months after we’d been on a panel together at Worldcon 2004. Only slightly less awesome than the physical Ringworld was the Puppeteer Fleet of Worlds, and yet his readers had scarcely glimpsed the latter in the novel Ringworld. Maybe, I suggested in an email, we could set a story there.
Newbie author that I then was, I marveled at my audacity. Seriously, who was I to work with Larry Niven? But that was my hang-up, not his. Gentleman that Larry is, he replied right away. Sure, he said, let’s hear your idea. Pretty soon, we were collaborating! In Known Space. With Puppeteers. Destroying indestructible General Products hulls.
Larry had firm notions what his characters and aliens would not do, and fair enough, but mostly he gave me the lead. He offered opinions, but he was always open to mine. And it worked. After Fleet of Worlds, we did a second novel. A third. In six intense years, we completed a five-book series.
More than once, Larry has called his fiction “playground equipment,” encouraging fans to extrapolate from what he’s written. But where most could only speculate, he let me build. He generously made available all of Known Space: the fascinating worlds, the alien species, the super-science marvels, and several much-loved characters.
What can I say about him? That writing together was a great experience—and lots of fun. That sharing his shiniest toys was an honor. That in the process, I gained a partner and made a friend. And that Larry Niven’s recognition as a SFWA Grandmaster is richly deserved. 


MikeP said...

Congrats to Larry. Applause to you both.


Edward M. Lerner said...

We thank you :-)

Anonymous said...

Good article, great tribute!

Edward M. Lerner said...