Keith Stokes' New York Nebula Awards Weekend Trip Report
New York City, NY May 17-21, 2000

Friday:

My flight to Newark was a direct flight leaving Kansas City at 6:45 AM. Taking the Super Shuttle into Manhattan from the airport, I arrived at the Crown Plaza (about 200 feet from Times Square) at noon. I had a quick lunch of a Ruben sandwich at the Back Stage Deli, across the street.

After settling into my room, I went in search of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Suite and registration. The hotel couldn't identify any room as being with SFWA, only by person's last name, so I waited around the lobby. Some of the Noble Fusion writers were also hanging out trying to find the SFWA suite, while Allison Stein was busy canceling her credit cards. Her wallet was stolen while she was having lunch. Finally we saw Lori Mann, who told us what floor the suite would be, and that it wouldn't open until after 3 PM.
 

Strand Book Store

St. Mark's Comics

Forbidden Planet book store

The main (only) activity on Friday was the mass autographing at the Union Square Barnes & Noble at 18th and Broadway. I walked down to that neighborhood and visited several used book stores before the event. The Strand was the most interesting store with many rows of shelves filled with review copies of current releases for half price. Because there was little empty space in my suitcases, my only purchase was a "Lost in Space" novel by Pat Cadigan, which I picked up at St. Mark's Comics. I also stopped at the Antiquarian Book Arcade and Forbidden Planet.

For supper, I shopped at the Garden of Eden Farmers Market and picked up spicy tuna roll, octopus salad and a wonderful Italian bread. It was a bit cold and damp, but I had a nice picnic on a park bench in Union Square.

The mass signing turned out well. Most of the 15 or so authors that did readings managed to stay close to their 2 minute limit. The readings were well received, with Octavia Butler, Joe Haldeman and Bruce Holland Rogers being particularly well received. After the readings, the featured authors were at two long tables, while the other 70 authors stood up congregating around the shelves and held up copies of their books so fans might find them.

Barnes & Noble at Union Square

After the signing, Kathy Wentworth, Rick Wilber and I planned to share a taxi back to the Crown Plaza, but instead joined Joe & Gay Haldeman and Rusty Hevelin in picking up some wine and retiring to the Haldeman's hotel for good conversation. 

At 11 PM when Rick, Kathy and I were ready to return to the Crown Plaza, the Haldemans recommended that we step across to Penn Station and take the "C" subway back. We confirmed which subway to take with a police officer, and preceded to wait 45 minutes at the station, while many other trains passed through We finally learned that the "C" doesn't run late night and the "A" changes to a local. The next "A" took us within a 100 yards of the hotel.

Back at my room, I uploaded the first pages of photos to the net and crashed at 1:30 AM.

SFWA Business MeetingSaturday dawned early and I uploaded more pictures before hurry to the SFWA business meeting. The business meeting crowd was small and when Paul Levinson called for a quorum count, there were only 29 active members. The meeting continued and there was cheers when Active #30 arrived.

The only surprise at the meeting was the announcement that Michael P. Kube-McDowell will no longer produce the Online Updates. Shane Tourtellotte will take over following the Nebula Awards announcement.

Only 45 minutes were left for new business. Yog's motion that the Sawyer Referendum be rescinded took almost the entire time. When it was decided that the motion would result in taking away membership of SFWAns who joined under the Referendum's rules, the motion received only 4 votes.

Following the meeting, I took a taxi to the Forbes Galley, a free museum featuring the Forbes family collections. 100s of toy boats, 10,000 toy solders and figures, the very first handmade version of Monopoly, 12 Faberge eggs, other Russian royal family items and more. My favorite part was the two rooms of presidential memorabilia rotated from the 4,000 pieces in the Forbes collection. It included the note the Truman wrote to the critic who unfavorably reviewed Truman's daughter's singing, the log book from the Enola Gay, Nixon's pardon and many Lincoln items.

When I left the gallery, it was raining, but I walked in the rain over to 8th Avenue and had a forgettable meal at a Thai restaurant. After lunch, I finally got a taxi, which took me back to the hotel just in time to join Graham Collins and a couple others for a walk to the Royale Theatre for Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is a drama with only three characters, the ghosts of physicists Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, and Bohr's wife Margrethe: Philip Bosco, Blair Brown and Michael Cumpsty. An excellent show.
 
The pre-award reception was held in the hallway outside the banquet hall. It was my first chance to see/talk to many people, but there wasn't enough room and some folks were crowded to other floors. There was a cash bar, with no drink tickets included in the $99 fee (SFWA made some money off the dinner). Andy Porter gave me some scotch from a bottle in his bag and I had a chance to talk to him about the sale of Science Fiction Chronicle announced on Friday.

The banquet room opened at 7 PM. With over 300 people, the room was full. The Sci-Fi live chat was showing on a screen at the far end of the room. I was assigned to SFWA table 4 and found my diner companions were SFWA Treasurer Ian Randall Strock, Kit Hawkins (Ian's charming fiancee), Bulletin Editor Dave Truesdale, Overseas Regional Director Sam J. Lundwall, Karin Lundwall (his daughter), Shane Tourtellotte, new Bulletin Art Director Thea Hardy and Jay ? who was taking lots of photos.

The meal consisted of a salad that I didn't like; a very good small puff pastry with scallops and shrimp; chicken; rice; tough vegetables; and cheesecake. The beverage choices were water and coffee, but I had a glass of wine courtesy of Sam Lundwall. The meal progressed very slowly.

Scott Edelman did a very good job as master of ceremonies, with good jokes and stories. At one point in the evening he sang a take off on an Elvis song.

The award results are available at the SFWA News Site, but highlights included Daniel Keye's speech in which he said that he had a practice of not writing new SF until the previous work was published. His last sale was to Harlan Ellison, many years ago. All he said was the the story hasn't been published yet - which drew big laughs.

Bruce Holland Rogers read a funny acceptance speech for Leslie What who won the award in his category. Joe Haldeman presented the best Novel award. While introducing Joe, Scott gave a well received tribute to Gay Haldeman.

Before Brian Aldiss' speech there was a 5 minute tribute film about previous Grand Masters. His speech came at the end of the night and the audience was getting pretty restless. He concluded about 11:30 PM by having Joe Haldeman come up. They donned white bowler hats and did a short song and dance.

 


Nebula Awards Banquet
Seated: Michael Burstein, Stanley Schmidt, Joyce Schmidt

Brian Aldiss and Joe Haldeman
Song and Dance by Brian Aldiss and Joe Haldeman 

Keith W. Stokes, K. D. Wentworth
Keith W. Stokes, K. D. Wentworth 

Following the awards, I raced up to the room to post the winners on the SFWA website, than returned to the ballroom hallway where folks were drinking and talking. Edelman, Keyes and Aldiss signed my books.

I spent the rest of the night at the SFWA Suite, most of it chatting with Dave Truesdale. There was no bar and there was never a large crowd. We talked until 4:30 AM and were the only ones there for the last hour.

Sunday dawned much too early. I packed and checked out, checking my bags for the day.

I walked over to the TKTS kiosk in Times Square and got in the VERY long line for discount theater tickets. The box office opened about 20 minutes later, and after about an hour I had a ticket to Cabaret for only $35. I spent the time before the show was mostly shopping (but not buying) along 5th Avenue. For lunch I enjoyed an excellent buffet at the fairly elegant Jewel of India on 44th Street.

I spent the next 90 minutes window shopping along 5th Avenue. Just before the show, I had a slice of pizza at Joe G's Pizza. Dave Letterman fans know the place.

Cabaret was in Studio 54, with the main floor tables and chairs adding to the setting. I sat far up with what Michael Hall's Emcee called, "the poor people." The show was good, but has a bleak ending. Sally Bowles has a strong voice and gives a wonderful but depressing performance.

The flight home was uneventful. I finished Ken MacLeod's The Cassini Division, just as the plane sat down.

All photos from the Nebula Award Weekend

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