The Nebulas

Old sketch of large house and grounds with red car out front

The Nebulas. Where else can you find a room full of NASA scientists, magazine editors, Hugo Award winning writers, virtual reality game developers, and people who spend their days dreaming up strange worlds?

I came out this year to Pasadena, CA for the four-day Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association conference.

It all started with a 5 AM walk from my house to my local bus station—an Amtrak bus would take me to a train and I’d take the Southwest Chief all the way to Los Angeles. It was a 40-hour train trip with no internet, no kids, no spontaneous snacks or access to anything I didn’t pack. I spent much of it writing a new piece and proofreading another. Some of it journaling. But more than anything else, I just looked out the window. Saw the countryside splayed before me. Coyotes, ghost towns, even a grizzly bear.

The plains out a train window

By the time I got to Pasadena, I was deeply calm. Also…more than ready to take a shower and lie flat in a bed.

Based on my virtual attendance at the Nebulas last year, I knew to expect a lot from the panels—authors talking about craft and publishing and all the other nerdy stuff—but I was surprised by the variety and value of what happened between the panels.

As a speculative fiction writer from a 80,000-person town in Wisconsin, I don’t meet a lot of people who enjoy reading about imaginary futures much less write them. It was different at the Nebulas. 

Everyone wanted to share about their writing schedule, latest query letter, or short story idea. They wanted to ask about my characters and themes. As writers, we run the full spectrum from quiet introvert to outgoing extrovert, but I truly felt that everyone I met was keenly interested in connecting, and deeply. This was our chance before retreating to all corners of the country.

The highlight was the Nebula Award Ceremony when we all came together for a red carpet and gala dinner. The carpet wasn’t really red and the chicken was a little bland, but like so much in science fiction, it was about bringing minds together. Dressed in gowns and sequins and black tuxedos, we celebrated the best literature of the last year and looked towards the future we are actively building together.

I wish there was one neat fact, one funny story or moment I could share that would sum up the entire experience, but more than words, it was a feeling. 

The feeling of being around people who understood what it was like to spend your life typing on a computer. Long days drafting in a notebook. People who understood the moments it felt futile in the face of the wide world. That their actions towards change felt small, but who believed nonetheless that if they persevered–looked beyond the doubts and setbacks, found the courage to move unshakably forward one word at a time–they could shape the future.

Picture of I'm Rebecca Zornow

I'm Rebecca Zornow

A science fiction author living in Wisconsin, I love traveling, eating good food, and reading long books.


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