I am so honored to have Zig Zag Claybourne as a guest poster on my blog sharing his experience at the 2016 World Con. Enjoy!
One of Liv Warfield’s songs blasts the chant, “You could call it the unexpected or you could call it ‘WOW!’” World Con is over and done. The Hugos are over and done. The year, which has sucked monkey balls, let’s be blunt, is pretty much over and done. Yet no matter the suckage, that Liv Warfield song pretty much sums up my 2016 World Con experience. Lots of firsts for me over the course of those five days in Kansas City. First World Con, first time voting and being a part of the Hugos. “Hugo Award Winning” showed up on the cover of so many books from my youth it became a symbol of power, a symbol part of me hasn’t yet grown too cynical to still believe in. Back then there seemed to be a correlation: I dove into authors who put their souls into their works and were recognized for it. Hugo-winning, to me, meant exceptional in some way.
Wee dogs tried to pee on that. I’m not saying that an award is the end-all and be-all of anything. Growing up, I read all kinds of books by all kinds of authors. I also missed all kinds of books by an even greater array of authors. Still, I felt as if that stamp meant something.
What did it mean? 1) That my imagination was about to get a workout; 2) that I could assume a certain level of craftsmanship; 3) that other folks—writers and readers alike—enjoyed a good mental journey just as much as this poor black kid from Detroit. The “black” is important here, because the publishing industry to this day too often will not represent, publish, distribute or read work that’s “too far from the mainstream.” So in all my ignorance, all my zeal, I thought the Hugos represented, above all else, possibility. I didn’t dive into the cogs and gears of how the Hugos were awarded. I assumed they were impartially juried.
I suppose in that respect, I thank wee dogs for peeing on it. It woke me up to certain things. That wasn’t their intention, and, hell, sucks to be them, but Zigs is all up in their mix now. I attended the fucking Hugos. I wasn’t nominated, I wasn’t there to be slavish, but the kid who grew up wondering if everybody else realized they had no mouths but they had to scream was there as a writer. A writer of new dreams.
And as introverted as he is he attended a packed-room Tor Books nighttime jam. His respect for Tor is solidifying, and he’s cool with that. Check out Tor.com and you’ll see what I see.
He deepened friendships with authors Cerece Rennie Murphy and Marguerite Reed, both of whom will likely be receiving Hugo nominations in the coming years. He learned from Christine Taylor-Butler and Bill Campbell. He’s in this blog now namedropping some of the fabulous writers he met: Kij Johnson, Larry Niven, Maurice Broadus, Ellen Datlow, Max Gladstone, Karen Bovenmyer, Ken Liu, Eileen Gunn, David Gerrold, Robert Sawyer; saw Robert Silverberg and GRR Martin from a distance, had breakfast with the Mothership Zeta crew, hung with Dave Robison of Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms/Onder Librum empire (Dave even did a quick Periscope interview with me), got to hug Charlie Jane Anders again, saw not one but two real life astronauts as they walked the ugly carpeting of the Kansas City Convention Center (Jeanette Epps and Stanley Love), finally had the insane pleasure of being in the same time & space with Kelly Robson and Alyx Dellamonica, and at one point seriously considered being a part of Frank Wu’s commune should Frank Wu ever start one. Frank Wu loves what he’s doing. No cynical fart cranking out cynical fart words he. There’s enthusiasm and fun and joy and just enough of the unexpected that he makes folks smile and want to say…
Yeah. You can call me a fanboy, you can say I’m a dreamer, you can accuse me of naivety, or you can step away from fear, pretense, and ignorance and simply appreciate the breadth of work being produced in this wondrous century and, in all due wonder, whisper along with me, “Wow.”
Two amazing writers nearly the same shade of brown as me took top literary honors at the 2016 Hugos. That’s mind boggling. Not that NK Jemisin won for best novel, boggling that it’s the first time in Hugo history that an African American–let alone an African American woman–has won that particular honor. That speaks volumes of shame at an industry that intones the words “boldly going where no one has gone before” while simultaneously slapping at the hands of those reaching for the doors. There’s pride in her win, but there’s also:
Michi Trota, the first Filipina Hugo award winner for her work with Uncanny Magazine, made us cry at the Hugos, not just because of her excellent acceptance speech, but because that speech was in and of itself evidence of more than lip service, it was her ironclad dedication to seeking out new life and new civilizations. It was reality.
Call it the unexpected. Me, I prefer to call it… now.
If you care to see a full listing of wondrous things go here. Genders, nationalities, wonderful people in the skins they’re in, world views and humors, maybe a dash of foolishness or two. Not America con. Not white guy con. Not fawn over the past con. Not you’re-only-allowed-to-play-in-the-sandbox-when-we-want-you-to con. Not beware-of-the-dog con. I want to be surrounded by the awesome variety of voices asking answers of the celestial sky. It’s a pleasant sound, an inspiring sound that drowns out the incessant noise of an industry that, as author and publisher Bill Campbell perfectly summed up, is not built for inclusion.
Isn’t that America? A lot of yapping from a small percentage, while those of us with better things to do go about the business of maintaining reality. There’s been enough barking to last a while. Maybe 2017 will see a Year of Creativity drown that out.
Keep hope alive.
Zig Zag Claybourne (also known as Clarence Young) wishes he’d grown up with the powers of either Gary Mitchell or Charlie X but without the Kirk confrontations. (And anybody not getting that Star Trek reference gets their sci fi cred docked 3 points.) The author of The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan, Neon Lights, Historical Inaccuracies, By All Our Violent Guides, and In the Quiet Spaces (the last two under C.E. Young), he believes a writer can be like an actor, inhabiting a delightful variety of roles and genres, but his heart belongs to science fiction.
His fiction and essays have appeared in Vex Mosaic, Alt History 101, The Wayne Review, Flashshot, Reverie Journal, Stupefying Stories, The City (a cyberfunk anthology), UnCommon Origins, Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine, and Rococoa (sword & soul/steamfunk anthology).
When not writing (or fiddling on Facebook) he loves promoting great art and posing the Great Questions, such as whether or not anybody will ever be funkier than Prince.
Find him on the web at www.WriteonRighton.com