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Notes on Losing My First Hugo
c is for cat
Firstly, congratulations to all the winners, most especially China and Paolo, both of whom totally deserved it and are exceptional humans and writers who wrote beautiful books. They were actually my #2 and #3 votes. What? I voted for myself first. You would too.

And super congratulations to my pumpkin girl seanan_mcguire who won the Campbell and was awesome and gorgeous and I'm so proud of her.

But yeah, of course, it's hard not to be disappointed. I knew I wasn't going to win, but of course I hoped, secretly, that a quantum miracle would occur. It didn't. I've found it immensely comforting and surprising that just about everyone who expressed condolences about it said I'd win one someday--that confidence in me as a writer really makes me walk taller.

I feel strange talking about an award I lost, as we're not really supposed to discuss it--an unsaid sort of thing. The glory is for the winners, as well it should be. But this blog is kind of an experiment in documenting the career of a single writer from pre-publication to death and I want to set down my thoughts, because that's what I do and I don't know how to do anything not out-loud. If I don't post thoughtfully when I lose, what does squeeing when I win even mean?

It was, of course, a miracle that it was nominated. Such a strange book, so divisive, so prickly and rough. That's not really the sort of book that gets consensus, even in a year when it wasn't up against such stellar works as were on the ballot, all full of my friends and heroes. I am so grateful for the nomination, still so stunned by it. I tweeted after the loss: Time to write a better book. I said the same after losing the World Fantasy Award for the first time. (There are wins and there are losses in this life, yo. I've lost as many as I've won.) It's not meant to be self-deprecating or to say that I somehow now think Palimpsest sucks. I don't. But I do think it's not a competition with other writers so much as a competition with myself to write better, write more, write higher, write stronger. That's all I can do. It's all the control I have over any of it.

I sat there in the audience, looking at the big screen that ever so briefly had my picture on it, thinking: I wonder if I'll sit here again, in what city that will be, in what year, who I will know or love by then, what books I will have written, if I will have children by then, if I will be old, if I will be still so young, if I will have written science fiction, if I will have written horror, if I will still be living on my island, if I will be any better at Russian by then.

I'd been thinking along those lines a lot at this con, watching the London bid for 2014 and the New Zealand bid for 2020, which seem both so impossibly far in the future to me now. Who will I be in 2014? I'll be 35, that's the only thing I'm sure of. Who do I want to be? And by 2020? What are the best and worst possibilities? Four years ago The Orphan's Tales hadn't even come out. I was so green you could have snapped me in half. Four years is forever. Yet it's not--in 2014 the Prester John series will have only just ended with its final book. It's not so far that I can't put pins in a map. Life is slow motion time travel through a hall of mirrors, and I tried to tell myself to remember the Hugo hall and how it felt there, how much I wanted it, but how ok I was with not getting it, how new it all was, how big. To remember it, if ever I found myself sitting there again. A message from my present self to my future self.

I leaned over to Seanan just before the lights went down and the awards began and said: No matter what happens, we are on the other side of the world and our dresses sparkle and we are so young. We have everything ahead of us.

It's true. The great blessing and great cruelty of youth is that there seems to be time enough.

It is a beautiful day. The sea is turquoise outside my window. I have contraband fruit roll-ups missed by the alert beagle at the airport. Losing is not so bad, not really.

Posted via Journaler.

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obviously, setting things on fire after a loss is the true way to go. this is australia, after all.


but, as they say, another book, another go.

Edited at 2010-09-06 05:19 am (UTC)

Losing is kind of miserable, but being nominated is an honor in itself. You're in the best of company, and you're still writing. Good luck!

I remember when I missed out on my first Hugo. It was an honor to be nominated, of course, but you never quite eliminate disappointment. When I eventually won it was all the sweeter.

Wait, that didn't happen. I'm confused. But it will to you!

Ah, but still, congratulations on the nomination!

Hey, congrats on being nominated and I was really rooting for you to win! Hugs!

P.S. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And you will get it someday!!!

By the way, I want pictures!

I love Palimpsest best of all your prose (I think I love "Oracles" best of everything, still), so when you write a better book, I *CANNOT WAIT* to read it. [grin] Enjoy the future.

It need not be dragged out in detail how your style of prose isn't everyone's cup of tea, or how I drink it twice a day when possible, but I was enormously pleased to see that your weird little book (which I mean in the best possible way) was one of six nominated for a Hugo. To me, it's a little like the Olympics - even if you don't win, it's pretty frickin' amazing to be competing at that level. And for someone who is doing things so differently to be so appreciated makes my heart flutter for all readerkind.

And, having just finished The Labyrinth, I am further amazed at how your style has expressed itself from book to book. I cannot imagine what will come next, but I know it will make me cry, and love, and smile.

You didn't lose, you just didn't win. People decided another work deserved the Hugo over yours, and that was their right. Keep writing, keep engaging your audience, and maybe one day you'll produce something that engages enough people enough for you to get a Hugo.

As for me, I'm glad you didn't win because it means the book will be in paperback that much sooner. Since I live on a limited income I can't afford hardbacks, and so the longer a book is in hard cover the longer before I can read it.

So keep poor folks like me in mind and don't let your books stay in hardback too long. :)

Of course that is their right. I also like thinking about it.

As for my books; none of them are in hardback. Palimpsest and The Orphan's Tales are both in paperback only, and have never been in hardback. Not sure where you got the idea that they were expensive hardbacks. On top of that, the author has no control over when books go into paperback. Sales alone determine it.

Hope this means you'll be buying a paperback or two soon.

Paperbacks? Why how dare they. Don't they know you're a Hugo nominated author? The nerve of some people. :)

You can still say "Hugo Award Nominee" and that is a rare list too.
The win is there but it will be with another book.
Enjoy your rocket pin, and know that you can always get into the Hugo Losers Party now. And I've heard it is a Great Party! :D

This is beautifully expressed, and says much of what I wanted to say -- but had no words for -- on not winning the Crawford. So thank you for the words.


"No matter what happens, we are on the other side of the world and our dresses sparkle and we are so young. We have everything ahead of us."

and that's a wonderful thing. congratiulations on an arc so steep so fast.

I'm convinced it's just a matter of time.

I look at the list of Hugo nominees on Wikipedia and it's like a Best of EVERYTHING list. Every writer on there is amazing and well known, and seems to go back again and again.

I haven't read "The Windup Girl" but I did read "the City & the City" and I read it just after "Palimpsest". As someone who thinks about cites and landscape a lot, I was just so happy to see places so beautifully described, places I wanted to go, and can go by opening the pages and entering again.

I know it's in some ways bitter to have lost, but what is sweet without the bitter? Bitter is what makes chocolate so damn good.

I definitely think it's only a matter of time before you win a Hugo. I think your nomination is the precourser to the win. That such an "odd" book could be nominated is amazing & wonderful to me.

I'm only a friend, but I am so proud of you, of all that you do, of the art you make. You're amazing, and November is right - you have never let us down.


Well, that made me tear up considerably.

"It's true. The great blessing and great cruelty of youth is that there seems to be time enough."

Yes, this.

I think this is one of your most beautiful entries, and so expresses what it is to try and capture a moment, to live in it and appreciate it, with one eye to the future.

I was talked into pre-registering for London 2014, but I can't really imagine what life will hold then - even though 2010 is almost over, and in objective terms it isn't really so far away. But there is a whole lot of living to happen in the meantime.

I love that you wrote about losing. It's interesting just like all of your blog.

I was in Portland last week for just a day and I thought so much of you. Maine is SO BEAUTIFUL and I can see why you love it.

Thank you for being who you are and writing your blog.

Can we see pictures of your pretty dress??

I think this is one of your more beautiful and inspiring entries.

You never cease to amaze me. I don't think you ever will. x

Charles Stross wrote Palimpsest???

I am confused,

please look here:


section: novella ...

is this a mistake or am I losing it completely?

Re: Charles Stross wrote Palimpsest???

We wrote things that have the same title. It happens.

I think winning is partly luck as well as skill- the luck to not be up against a book that more people consider to be just that little bit better than yours. but the only way to get nominated in the first place is to write a great book.

I haven't read Palimpest yet, but I bought a copy at the con :D

Well, I was rooting for you, and for "Julian Comstock". Figures that neither of my picks would win. Award or no award, you wrote a novel for the ages.

My very very dearest,
This entry is so beautiful, it breaks my heart.

Hello from the wilds of China, where I've just been introduced to you, your books and your blog by my boyfriend who has been enthusing over both for the past week. He showed me your cat, your knitting, your words and your gardening and told me I ought to go over and introduce myself as we'd be great friends if only Shanghai was in Maine. I'm inclined to agree. Do you need any astrally projected friends in your little town?

PS We were totally rooting for you on the Hugo thing. Yay you for doing so awesomely!

Echoing others, this is a great post, a wonderful sentiment and it follows an excellent novel. It's certainly no shame to lose to such excellent works as were this year's ties. I'm sure that you'll continue to write works that deserve a Hugo, as I'd regard your most recent works. Whether you actually will---well, the Worldcon community can be an extremely conservative and fickle lot not overburdened with taste---witness this year's novella and Dramatic Presentation short form wins, and the fact that a Resnick story even got onto it. Hopefully you can get that award, but it's possible that you'll never gain traction against the stream of Gaiman and Sawyer books.

It's not a perfect process, by any means. There's something clearly dysfunctional in the process when the award winning piece with the name Palimpsest is not your excellent novel but instead Stross' mediocre and poorly characterized novella. So it goes, the name affinity is coincidental but the gap in quality is not small.

From Helen Lowe

Cat, I found Palimpsest a tough read, but it came together in the end for me as a reader and I felt satisfied when I had closed the book. I also thought you were trying to do something different with your story--and for that reason I gave your book a high ranking when I voted. Which really surprised at least one person I spoke to at the Con because I guess I seem like Ms Trad--and in some ways I am, but Palimpsest won me over.

Just for what any of that is worth ...

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