Holy crap. I didn't see that one coming.
For those of you who don't follow this all that closely, one of the other nominees was Eugie Foster, an enormously talented writer who passed away last year and When It Ends, He Catches Her was her final story. I assumed she would win. I was all set to cheer when she did. (I met her husband at the con, he's very sweet, and as it happens, I did the art for the cover of one of her self-published anthologies, a fact I'd forgotten because brain, sieve, etc.)
Did I want to win? Well, of course, but I didn't want to want to win, if that makes any sense, because hey, I'll write other stories. Maybe one of them will get nominated for a Nebula. And as I learned from the Hugos, the statue is fantastic, but the nomination is actually the thing. When they say "It's an honor just to be nominated," cliche as it sounds, it's true.* The statue, sure, maybe you compete for, but the nomination is a gift from the people who believe in you.
I truly believe that if it's not a gift, it's not worth much of anything.
And I suspect that I also truly believed I wasn't going to win, because before the Hugos, when people had been telling me I had a shot, I couldn't eat for sheer nerves, and I cheerfully polished off a chicken dinner and a glass of wine at the Nebula banquet, and mostly was sweating for Sarah Monette, aka Katherine Addison, aka author of The Goblin Emperor which book gave me all the feels forever and who is a lovely person and I was hoping hard for her.
When they called my name, I, being the cool operator I am, said "What?"
Then I said "What?" again, several times.
And Kevin said "What?" which was good, because then I felt slightly less out of the loop.
Then I noticed that all the people at my table (we were sitting with a contingent of Chinese science fiction authors who had come to cheer for Cixin Liu, and the founder of Strange Horizons, among others) were all looking at me and cheering and Kevin was rooting through his sporran for my speech, which I'd written for the Alternate Universe Nebulas that take place afterwards, where everybody gets together in the foyer and reads their acceptance speeches for the alternate universe where they won.
The speech that, because I had written it for that alternate universe, addressed the audience as if they were giant chickens.
It occurred to me that I had possibly made a tactical error.
I took the speech and went up to the front and I am actually almost good at this part because I am thinking gotta make a speech gotta make a speech not holy crap I've won a Nebula and then they handed me the big cube with the planets in it and I accidentally thought holy crap I've won a Nebula and that was a big mistake because then I turned to the microphone, and my voice cracked and I said the first thing that came into my head, which was "Aw shit, guys, you were supposed to give this to Eugie."
Grace under pressure, thy name is someone else.
But I gave the speech, and fortunately explaining the giant chicken bit got me past the bit where I was getting choked up and then I was just giving the speech which was mostly telling stories about tattooing and selkies and then I walked back and people were congratulating me on the way.
I went to the Alternate Universe Nebulas. There were some really good speeches. Some of them were fiery and some were impassioned and some had weeping. Any of them would have been just as good as mine. (I hold out that I was the only giant chicken, though)
And honestly, there was not a single name on the ballot with mine that didn't deserve to be there, and any of those authors could have walked up on stage and taken the trophy home and earned it just as much, possibly more so.
When you hit the top handful of short stories of the year, it's all a matter of personal preference after that, and who was in the mood and who had read all the stories except the one that they would have liked better than yours. I won't say there's never been a bad Nebula winner** but this year was good. It was an honor just to be on the same page with those other people.
And yes, it's easy for me to say because I've got the big Lucite paperweight (and incidentally, that thing sets off the X-ray machines at airport security like you would not BELIEVE.) But damn, I wish we could have given out trophies to all seven of us.
The trophy looks good on a shelf. The real prize is that you meet these incredible writers and realize that somebody thinks you deserve to stand alongside them.
(Seriously, go read their stories.)
Anyway. I took home a very heavy trophy, and my shoulder is still grumbling about carrying it through the airport, and I do not yet believe on any level that I have actually won one, and by the time it actually sinks in, six months will have gone by and then it will look very stupid to be like "HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS I'M A NEBULA WINNER." But I'll manage.
Thank you to everybody who congratulated me by text and twitter, and to the members of SFWA who voted for me. My fellow giant chickens, I am very grateful.
*Also, believe it or not, But it's a dry heat is 100% true.
**A number of you just thought the words "Mormon space-whale" to yourself.