It’s several days later and I still can’t quite believe it. I look at the list of past recipients of the Skylark Award (formally the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award) which is bestowed annually by the New England Science Fiction Association, and I’m in awe. From Frederik Pohl and Isaac Asimov and John W. Campbell to more recent awardees like George R. R. Martin, Rob Sawyer, and Jo Walton, I ask myself, “What am I doing amongst these giants?”
I never would have guessed I would even be considered for the Skylark Award, and I was stunned when my friend Nat Segaloff (the NESFA Press Guest at Boskone for his recent book on Harlan Ellison, “A Lit Fuse”) announced that this year’s award would be going to me. I have it on my bookcase – away from sunlight as Jane Yolen, another past winner, recommended – when I need to be reminded that it actually happened.
All I know is what the official qualifications for the award are: “some person, who, in the opinion of the membership, has contributed significantly to science fiction, both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late ‘Doc’ Smith well-loved by those who knew him.” It's not for me to judge my “work in the field,” although I’d like to think my book “Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and other observations about science fiction movies” was a useful addition to the discussion of what I call in my introductory essay “the forbidden genre.”
As for being “well-loved,” I’m not really the best judge there either. Like Humphrey Bogart and Sally Field when they won their Oscars, it was a revelation to me that I was so regarded. I did not know E. E. “Doc” Smith, who died in 1965, but I did meet Pohl and had a phone interview with Asimov and am proud to know Sawyer as both a fan of his books and someone who kindly blurbed one of mine. I’ve met several other recipients as well, knowing some (hi, Bob Eggleton) better than others. Like the giants I suddenly find myself among, I try to remain approachable to my fellow fans (I’m still one) at the cons I attend.
And perhaps that’s the key to all this. In the world of science fiction there are pros and there are fans, but a Venn diagram would show most, if not all, of the pros falling within fandom. When I’ve crossed paths with Robert Silverberg or David Gerrold or Mike Resnick at a con, it doesn’t matter that they don’t know me. They are approachable and friendly and happy to engage with other members of the community. It’s a longstanding norm in the science fiction world.
So I take it not so much as a pat on the back for past actions as much as a beacon going forward. If you see me at a con, come over and say hello. I won’t bite. Promise.