After a morning conference call, I packed up and took a cab back to the convention hotel. There were no further hotel shenanigans, for which I am very glad; showed up, checked in, got reimbursed for my cab fare, all good. I got my badge, nabbed lunch at the hotel buffet (surprisingly tolerable), and headed up to the press room. Jaym Gates, SFWA’s press officer, is terrific. Even though she was dealing with hotel shenanigans, she still managed to get me set up with free wi-fi and line up a couple of interviews with Nebula nominees Mary Robinette Kowal and Rachel Swirsky. The audio of those will be exclusive to SFWA’s member site, but I’m hoping to at least post excerpts here.
After that I went down to the bar and ended up talking with a gaggle of folks (I’m trying not to turn this into namedropper central) about Readercon, Philcon, Lunacon, and other events of days gone by. Gardner Dozois told a hilarious story of the time he and George R.R. Martin, both young and broke, went around a convention trying to find an editor who would buy them dinner, and finally one took pity on them and got them each a hot dog from the cart outside the hotel. Be kind, editors! You never know who that pesky young writer will be someday.
I ran into James Patrick Kelly, who somehow talked me into being on a 10 a.m. panel tomorrow about e-books and self-publishing; this is what I get for snubbing the convention program. I did actually go to a panel, too: Jim Kelly, Connie Willis, John Scalzi, and James Morrow talking about how to write humor. They were all very responsible about staying on topic rather than zinging off snappy one-liners, but Scalzi managed to do both by describing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as “an extinction-level event for comedic science fiction.”
After that was the mass signing, which I endured for about an hour before fleeing to my room for a blissful hour of peace and quiet. I went back downstairs at about 7:15 to find several people discussing an email that had just been sent out by Jason Williams of Night Shade Books. (He also sent me a copy with permission to quote from it.) Night Shade’s had a couple of hard years; Williams cited the collapse of Borders and difficulties with a distributor, and also admitted that when SFWA put Night Shade on probation, they “needed the kick to get our affairs in order” and have continued to struggle to make payments on time (which may be why Cat Valente recently announced she would no longer be working with them). None of that is really news, though. The newsworthy bits are three:
- Night Shade has signed a distribution deal with PGW, including domestic and international e-book distribution through Constellation. “Ebook sales since we went live with Constellation in December have literally doubled.”
- They’ve also signed “a huge audiobook deal, that will not only include 20-30 backlist titles, but also a guaranteed audio rights deal for every non-reprint novel we have going forward.”
- “A wave of checks will go out at the end of this month, and another will go out in early July. After that, we’ll be paying bills in the beginning of every month…. We are making more than we are spending, and that means that we are operating with cash left over to pay off that back debt. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m going to be doing my best to make sure that everyone that is owed is getting money on a regular basis.”
Most of the reactions I heard were variations on the theme of “We’ll see”. I think it’s great that Night Shade is continuing to look to the future, but I suspect they’ll have image problems long after those debts are paid off (assuming they do get paid off).
I pulled myself away from the conversation for a wonderful dinner with Geoff Ryman and James Morrow at a nearby Ethiopian restaurant (thanks to Eileen Gunn for the kind recommendation), and came back fashionably late for the nominees’ reception. In a bit of accidental comedy, Scalzi left E. Lily Yu off the list of short story nominees (an error he quickly corrected) and then sent them through the wrong door for their group photograph. I caught up with Lily a bit later and she said happily, “That was actually the best thing that could have happened. I was so nervous before, but after walking into a supply closet with Adam-Troy Castro and Sheila Williams, now I’m not nervous at all!” So if you have pre-award jitters, supply closets are apparently the way to go.
I circulated and chatted for a while, and eventually the party shut down; most people decamped to the bar, but I wanted to spare my voice for the panel (seriously, why did I agree to do that), so Danielle and I got tea from the consuite and then headed for our room. I ironed all my shirts, hung up my suit, realized with some vexation that I had left my captoes at home and would be stuck wearing less formal shoes, and sat down to write this post. Now, to sleep. Tomorrow, the awards!