In Which I Win A Hugo And Fight Neil Gaiman For Free Nachos

I have con crud.

Also, a Hugo award.

Heh heh heh heh.

(I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying that bit. Although I’ll stop soon so people don’t think I’ve become a raging egotist, I promise.)

As probably most of you know by now, Digger took the Hugo for Best Graphic Story Sunday night at Worldcon, and I may never fully recover. There is a photo of me and a bunch of other people on Neil Gaiman’s LJ. I have been hit with the worst possible camera angle and lighting and look like I weigh about eight hundred pounds, and I was also stunned and had been smiling weakly for photos for about ten minutes at that point, so it’s honestly a very bad shot of me. But I am carrying a Hugo and Gaiman is down at the end, and I will forgive the photographer everything because of that. Who cares if it’s a bad photo? I’m in it and I HAVE A HUGO.


I’ll have a full on con report later in the week, covering this one and Bubonicon, but for the moment, I’m going to talk about Hugos, since I figure this is the last day before you get bored of hearing about it, and some parts of the process were kinda interesting and others are funny in retrospect. Since I have absolutely no doubt that some of my readers will someday be nominated for Hugos (and a few of them actually do have a couple on the shelf at the moment) this may some day be useful information.

They do the awards on Sunday night, so you spend most of the con pretty much a nervous wreck. I was a tower of calm all year, I wasn’t worrying about it, I knew I wasn’t going to win it—I was against Fables! Four time nominee Shlock Mercenary! Stephen King’s son!—I was just looking forward to the bit where they read your name out and you get to go to the Loser’s Party and hang out with people you’ve admired for years.

Then I got to the con, and people started telling me how much they loved it and that they totally voted for it. Random strangers told me they voted for it. People I had never met in my life told me they voted for it. And this horrible little voice started saying hey. hey. Hey, lady. Hey, you might win. Hey.

I ignored it as long as I could, because hope is DEATH. If I expected to lose, I wouldn’t be crushed.

And people kept telling me they voted for it. And you can’t grab them and say “Oh god, don’t tell me that!” because they are kind people doing a kind thing, and it’s all your neuroses at work, nothing to do with them. (I can honestly say that I was saying ‘It’s an honor just to be nominated,” with no irony whatsoever, and when I thanked people for voting, I meant every word. It was just the back of my brain going ohgodohgodmaybewehaveashotohgod…)

(Side note: One really gratifying part of this experience was that Worldcon is very much an old-school literary con. Graphic story is not exactly the sci-fi ghetto, but it’s definitely got a lot of single-wide trailers and dogs chained out in the yard. The number of people who came up to me and said “I don’t do comics, but I looked at the ones in the Hugo voters packet and tried to keep an open mind,” was very heartening. I think we are making progress on this.)

By late Saturday, I’d lost the fight, and was thinking “You know, it’s possible I might actually….no! Stop thinking that way!” and turning on Kevin at odd moments and going “Tell me I’m not going to win!”

Saturday night I laid in bed and visualized the announcements with other people’s names in them, over and over, in a kind of primitive aversion therapy. “And the winner is…Locke & Key!” “And the winner is…Fables!” I was actually kinda hoping it would be Schlock Mercenary, because Howard Tayler is the nicest man in webcomics and we spent much of the con trading vaguely panicky, vaguely encouraging, “I want to win, but if I lose, I hope it’s to you,” comments and hugging a lot. (Seriously, the man is a class act.)

“Self-selecting sample,” I muttered into my coffee. “People aren’t going to come up to you and say “Yeah, I totally voted for Fables.” (Although a few people reportedly went up to Howard and said “Yeah, I love your stuff but I voted for Digger.” Still feel a little guilty about that.)

I should mention at this point that I was rooming with Mur Lafferty, up for a Campbell award. (Lily Yu got it, and I gotta say she is totally deserving and a brilliant author, and I’m glad she won it if Mur didn’t. We had coffee and sat together at the awards, and she is just profoundly awesome and also so young that you kinda want to shoot her out of a cannon for being nominated for a Hugo, a Campbell, and a Nebula at 22. Lily! If you’re reading this, keep in touch!)

So anyway, I’m rooming with Mur, and by Sunday morning, we are both just wrecked. My brain had been lulled into thinking that it was fifty-fifty—me or Howard—since I hadn’t met any other nominees in the category and had decided they didn’t really exist. I wandered around the con feeling like I was in the dentist’s waiting room, waiting to hear if I got a root canal or a pony.

Sofawolf, all four of ’em, were marvelous during this. I spent a lot of time at their table signing and they distracted me nicely and listened to my whining and made soothing noises. I love those guys. A number of other past Hugo winners (and losers) were also very kind to me, Connie Willis and Phil Foglio especially. My mom called to say that her Buddhist group was chanting for me. Um. Thanks, Mom.

Sunday afternoon, Mur and I have no appetite, Kevin is wondering if he’s going to throw up (I think he was more nervous than I was, actually) and we finally all have smoothies because we have to eat something or drop dead. I start running through the reactions of every person I had met at the con who already knew who the winners were. Had they made eye contact? Was that one conversation about using the art in the newsletter significant? They would never admit anything, but I wondered if cutting one of them open and reading their entrails would be frowned upon.

We have a rehearsal. They show you the stairs and do a quick dry run—go up here, someone will take your arm, walk to here, take the Hugo, stand on this mark, turn to Scalzi (the toastmaster) hand him the Hugo if you think you’re going to drop it, go to the podium, give your acceptance speech, wait for applause, turn, take the Hugo, go to the curtains, there will be people right there, they’ll take your arms (and the Hugo as needed) and walk you down stairs or ramp, here are chairs, here is water, here are tissues, sit as long as you need, take Hugo, return to seat.

It was all choreographed very well and seemed based on the principle that Hugo winners are in serious danger of falling down, throwing up, fainting, or weeping uncontrollably. (Much like warnings on labels, every single one of those is probably because Someone Has Tried It Already.) Do not drop the Hugo. The base this year is made of stained glass, by the awesome Deb Kosiba (who made a fabulous stained glass phalloi based on one of my paintings, and gave me a Danny Dragonbreath decal that graces my car to this day.) It will shatter if dropped. DON’T DROP THE HUGO.

Kevin bought Mur and I chocolates. They were delicious. We got dressed. Mur’s husband Jim arrived. The four of us stood around in the room going “You look fabulous! Do I look okay?” I checked my mascara approximately eighty-five times to see if it was smearing, and finally just took most of it off.

We went to the before party. Elizabeth Bear introduced Kevin to Neil Gaiman. Kevin will recover at some point in the next month, I believe. Then I wandered over, in search of crabcakes, and she introduced me.

MR. GAIMAN: Ah. Nice to meet you, hope you win and all that shit.

ME: Thank you, it’s an honor just to be nominated and all that shit.

MR. GAIMAN: Exactly.

(Thank you, god, for letting me think on my feet for once in my life.) (I hasten to add, for context, that since we had all been giving these exact same speeches several hundred times by now, this did not come across as rude at all, but as more resigned to circumstances.)

We wandered. We made appreciative noises to people who, under other circumstances, we would be dying over meeting. I drank a large glass of wine and then stopped, because being drunk during the Hugos would be bad, but being in the bathroom when they called your name would be infinitely worse. Kevin blotted sweat off his head. Howard got a glitter rocket ship painted on the side of his skull. Cat Valente’s dress gleamed like Versailles burning. Lily (who was obviously more sensible than the rest of us) said “Nah, I got all my nerves out at the Nebulas. I’m not gonna win, so this is awesome!” Mur looked elegant and only someone who knew her quite well could see that she was in serious danger of curling into fetal position or running amok with a crab fork.

We wobbled into the auditorium. We sat. Mur pulled out her laptop as one of the designated live bloggers. I held Kevin’s hand. My fingers were extremely cold. They showed photos on the wall. We all cheered for Mur’s and then for my self-portrait. Good god, there’s a lot of people in this room. It’s got to hold at least a thousand. If I win I have to talk to them. Oh god. I should have had another crabcake.

Lights dim. Scalzi comes out. He talks about the five stages of Hugo nomination. He is absolutely correct. Yes. There is always the work. If I lose this, I’ll go write something else that’ll win a freakin’ Hugo. Maybe not a seven-year epic this time, though. They run through the list of people who have died in the last year. I get a little choked up. Thank god I took off the mascara. I don’t know most of these people, but Armstrong, Bradbury, McCaffery and Ride still hit me.

Lily wins the Campbell. I am extremely proud of her, and also feel a little bad, because she had to be the very first one up on stage and give the first talk. She does very well. I alternate between screaming for her and clutching Mur’s hand. Next year. Mur deserves all the awards. All these people deserve awards. There are not enough awards in fandom for the talent contained in it.

More awards. I retain none of them in my head, except that Squeecast gets one (or five) and I cheer because I know half of ’em and they’re awesome. Check program. Long time until Graphic Story. Not gonna win. Oh god, I hope Howard wins if I don’t. If it’s one of the others, it’ll just be depressing, but I can stand up and cheer for Howard.

Neil Gaiman stands up to give a speech. At this point, UStream bots cut out the live feed, which is why my phone feels like a nest of wasps, as my father and mother and several friends begin screaming over text that the feed has cut out and mine is NEXT.

They read the names. I am clutching Kevin’s hand and Jim’s hand (Mur had to go sit in the media booth to keep liveblogging.) Both of these men have held the hands of women in labor, and that was probably worse, but I won’t swear to it.

And they say my name.

Actually they say “Dig–” and then it gets drowned out by the screaming from our row, from the other rows, (Kevin’s cousin yelling “Weasel Invicti!”) from backstage (apparently I had a lot of fans on staff, and I love you all) and Kevin throws his arms around me and I think Oh fuck I have to go give a speech to a thousand people and I kissed Kevin and hugged Jim and stood up and said “Okay, I can do this,” and Kevin handed me my speech.

Thank god they make you do the dry run. It was easy. You walk, you stand, you realize that you can’t see a damn thing, because there are floodlights glaring down on you, so you’re talking to three blurry rows of people up front and a huge dark space.

I remember very little of giving the speech. I had actually rehearsed in the car a few (dozen) times (OH LIKE YOU WOULDN’T HAVE) and it goes off pretty much without a hitch, except that I forgot the names of everybody in Sofawolf, and also Kevin’s name, so I just refer to them all in the abstract. And also I made Scalzi double check the name on the trophy.

I don’t know if they’ll ever get videos up of it—I’m told you mostly see my tattoos and that it went very well, since it was short and funny and had an Alice’s Restaurant joke in it. I didn’t cry. I didn’t actually feel like I’d won a Hugo, I felt like someone had called my name and I had to stand up and give a short speech in front of the class.

Finished. People laugh. The speech is mostly about how I cornered Kevin in the shower to tell him how Digger ends and he sat on this knowledge for two years. Kevin gets a round of applause for that. (According to Lily, Kevin spent the whole speech crying. One of us had to, and I’m glad it was him, because I had to give the damn speech.) Turn. Take Hugo. Walk to curtain.

And now having all the people backstage makes sense, because you have suddenly gone from staring into floodlights to near total darkness, and you are blind as a bat and shaking uncontrollably from adrenaline. They took the Hugo off me, somebody took each arm, I was led carefully down a ramp, sat in a chair, given water, and congratulated a number of times (I thanked them all, repeatedly. I think I was stuck in thanks mode, but I was also really grateful) given tissues and told to sit there as long as I needed.

It was kind of like going to the school nurse because you just fell down and validated your life’s work.

Stood up. Got the Hugo. Thanked everyone again. Went back to Kevin and Lily and Jim. I think some other people won. I think I tweeted. I remember very little except shaking a lot and making Kevin carry the Hugo so I wouldn’t drop it, and wishing I could find Howard so that I could apologize. Called my mom. Would have called my dad, but I think he was dialing random numbers to tell everyone in the Atlanta area that his daughter had won a Hugo. (Mom had been preparing a list of great writers who were nominated for Hugos and didn’t win, like Kurt Vonnegut, so that I’d feel better.)

I more or less came to when the photos were over (you stand on the stage with everyone else, knowing that you are taking very bad photos and clutching your Hugo and staring into hundreds of cameras and I will admit that I looked down at Jim Hines and said “Is this a bad time to tell you that I love your work?”) and hugged all the guys from Sofawolf and Kevin a few more times and Lily and Dave & Diane Stein and then we all swept up to the Hugo loser’s party, although it was sort of awkward because we only had so many passes and they were really controlling it tightly this year, and I could only get half of Sofawolf in. Hopefully Tim and Mark had a good time.

And that was all of it, except for the Nacho Incident.

Pretty much the minute I handed the Hugo to Kevin and sat down, the fact that I was running on a mango smoothie and crabcakes hit me, and I wanted a cheeseburger or a steak or something RIGHT NOW. The Loser’s party had a small free nacho bar. It was very tight quarters, and I had to squeeze past a curly-haired man in a dark suit who was….ah.


“I shall dine out for years,” I said, “on the story of how I shoved Neil Gaiman aside to get to the free nachos.”

He grinned. “When you tell the story, in two or three years, as you’ve added to it, please have me on the floor weeping, covered in guacamole.”

“I think I can promise that,” I said.

So that’s what I did last weekend, internet. How are you?

35 thoughts on “In Which I Win A Hugo And Fight Neil Gaiman For Free Nachos

  1. girdtmom says:

    So much awesome.
    Thank you for posting this so soon, as I have been dying of suspense since UStream cut the feed and I started screaming at the computer (alternating with the Happy Dance because you’d won). And it seemed wrong to come here and pester you for a report. And this gushing from an internet stranger is undoubtedly kinda creepy. But I am sincerely thrilled for you, and proud and happy to have have voted for you, and there you go.

  2. Rachel White says:

    I’ve been a lurker on your sites for probably 10+ years now, and I just had to delurk to say a huge CONGRATULATIONS! That is so awesome. I’ve been waiting all weekend for you to blog about it, and your story is fabulous.

  3. Wolf Lahti says:

    “I didn’t actually feel like I’d won a Hugo, I felt like someone had called my name and I had to stand up and give a short speech in front of the class.”

    Yes! Exactly!

    I actually find the blindingness of the stage lights comforting, as the black pit beyond the edge of the stage makes it easy to believe that the audience has all left.

    So – when do you win the Newbery Medal?

  4. Andrew Ragland says:

    I haven’t been this excited over someone winning an award in many years. And I am so glad my copies of Digger were purchased before this, so that I have the copies without “HUGO WINNER” plastered over the cover art, because gods love’em the Sofawolf folks deserve to get some marketing out of this but covering the art with pretty much anything. Yeah. Okay. We’re doing a bonfire for Mabon, if you get to this part of Virginia, drop in and we’ll provide appropriate beverages for toasting your success and you can meet the alpacas. The two new cria will actually let you pet them.

  5. VR Trakowski says:

    Many, many congratulations! I was hunched over the award Website’s Twitter feed after Ustream cut out, and probably disturbed my neighbors with my whooping.

    You tell a wonderful story, and you draw an even better one. You deserve it.

  6. OmegaMom says:

    Like the others, I was switching back and forth between the live text and my Twitter feed, just waiting for the graphic novel announcement. I was SO SO HAPPY for you. I even danced around my (non-SF-reading) hubby and squeed. Major, major congratulations!!

    And I waited very patiently for this entry, so as not to be a creepy stalker bothering you with tweets and emails going, “So what was it like?!?! Hunh?! Hunh?!”

  7. Amy says:

    So many congratulations, and so damn happy for you! Smiled through tears the whole way through this post and then snickered at the end. Madam, you are a singular one.

  8. Gillian says:

    Congratulations! Oh, and I kind of got stuck at your mention of Connie Willis… she’s a writing idol. Not to mention shoving Neil Gaiman aside for nachos… fabulous!

  9. Al the K says:

    Congratulations, overjoyed that you won and all that shit.

    No guilt needed; looking at the voting, it was a clear-cut win through every stage.

  10. Hawk says:

    And yet another round of congratulations – BECAUSE YOU ROCK – and because it’s worth repeating for a year if *I* feel like it. And right now I do 😀

  11. Fiona says:

    SUCH a good story. I’m reading this and trying not to giggle out loud in glee and delight and because this is a really good story, because I’m at work, but I got to the Neil Gaiman And The Nachos story and now everyone is looking at me oddly 🙂 but WHO CARES. YOU WON A HUGO!!!!!

    (Now PLEASE come to Australia so we can show you real wombats!!!).


    Also, hugs to Kevin, once he’s recovered from meeting Neil AND Connie AND everyone else. I’m not sure I’d recover so fast. You are all fantastic.

    But you are the bestest.

  12. Peter Cashwell says:

    When we finally get to go birding together, I will be hideously disappointed if you don’t announce every sighting with “Look! A Bay-breasted Warbler and all that shit!”

    I think I love this post almost more than I love the idea of your winning a Hugo. NOT THAT WINNING A HUGO IS IN ANY WAY UNLOVABLE.

  13. elise says:


    (And thank you for stopping by my room sort-of-a-party! I was all in shiny mode, and therefore was fiercely suppressing my fangirl squee tendencies, but part of me inside was going URSULA VERNON IS IN MY ROOM OMG SHE DOES THAT COOL DIGGER THING!)

  14. Lounalune says:

    Congrats! You’re amazing, and Digger is amazing, and you totally deserved the Hugo and the free nachos. Though I’ll have to read the graphic novels of the other nominees at some point.

  15. RhianimatorLGP says:

    Congrats! I hope this encourages you to do more work like Digger. The kid stories are great, but I do love your meatier, more adult work too.

    I also believe that Neil has learned an important life lesson. – Never get between a starving artist and the free nachos.

  16. Judy Bemis says:

    I’m so very glad for you!!! I was in the audience and at the con, though you probably didn’t notice, since I don’t think I ever actually ran into you. I did tell people all the rest of the con if the subject came up that I was so happy you had won, and “I Knew her when…”.


  17. naleta says:

    I was at Worldcon for my very first time this year. I didn’t actually run into you face-to-face, but if I had, I would have been one of those folks who told you that they voted for it.

    I was sooooo glad when you, and Jo Walton, and Jim Hines all won!

    Congratulations, and now make another one! Pretty please!

  18. Pip says:

    Congratulations! I have loved your work for years and Digger is a fabulous story. Plus it’s main character is a wombat (known locally as bulldozers of the bush), how can it go wrong?

  19. Wombat32 says:

    I posted a comment on LiveJournal, but apparently it got eaten, so I’m reposting here…
    I live just a few houses away from Pete Seeger, and I wandered over to let him know about the Alice’s Restaurant reference, so he could call Arlo Guthrie and let him know. He actually called, and while I was there, Arlo said he’d check out the blog and probably say something. They’ve performed together in the area a number of times, so I knew it would get to the right ears. So keep any eye out for a message from Arlo soon, if he hasn’t commented already.

  20. Lily Yu says:

    KNEW they were going to shoot me. Ran into this looking for Kevin’s contact details; I think you can see mine? Maybe? Congrats again 🙂

  21. LATurner says:

    I know this is an old journal entry, but I just had to mention that the sole reason I registered to vote for the Hugos is that I wanted to vote for Digger. 🙂

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