Shirtless in Seattle

Big joy for me in Seattle on Friday night, where I had the great honor of winning the Philip K. Dick Award for science fiction for 2013, for my novel Countdown City.  

As I said, or tried haltingly to say, in accepting the award, I am especially grateful that the Last Policeman series has won this particular laurel, because A) I so love and admire Dick’s whole idiosyncratic, impossible oeuvre,  and because B) I didn’t set out to write science-fiction, it just ended up that way.

What I wanted was a way to tell a classic detective story in a surprising way, maybe to fold some new ideas into that genre—the mystery genre—and so I came to the world-ending asteroid business, and (as I’ve noted in the past) once you’ve got a world-ending asteroid in your book, it’s science fiction whether you like it or not.

Some of the works of Philip K. Dick. Look at those covers!

Let me be clear: I like it. I like the novels being labeled sci-fi, and I certainly like winning an award in the category. I hope it’s not too cliche to observe that what successful science-fiction novels do (like those of, for example, Philip K. Dick), is similar to what successful mystery novels do, which is to use the conventions of  genre as a lens through which to examine the ideas, the morality, the received wisdom, of the world we actually live in.

Anyway. Here on YouTube you can see me reading a selection from Countdown City at the award ceremony, and if you keep watching you can see me accept the award, after my new friend, the Japanese novelist Toh EnJoe, accepts the Special Citation for his insane multipart experimental novel The Self-Reference ENGINE.

Me, doing a reading, post-ceremony, in ill-matching shirt and suit.

(Side note: I have to ruefully acknowledge that in this clip I am wearing a short-sleeve salmon colored button-up shirt with my light-blue suit.  This sartorial nightmare was occasioned by Mr. Fancypants Award-Winning Writer having forgotten to pack a dress shirt for the ceremony. I would have felt more self-conscious in the moment, except this award was given out at NorWesCon, a sci-fi/fantasy convention, so there were literally people there dressed as orcs.)

 

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Nominated for Philip K. Dick award

It is hard to overstate how excited I am about being nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award for Countdown City, the second book in the Last Policeman trilogy. As I’ve probably said here before, when I set out to write these books I wasn’t really thinking of them as science fiction, per se–although when you’ve got a giant asteroid in your story, that story is probably automatically a science-fiction story.

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Philip K. Dick

What I always said was, “well, if anything they’re speculative fiction, ” and if people said “what is speculative fiction?” I would refer them, first, to Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (which is actually probably the most clear influence, given that it is not only speculative fiction, but a speculative-fiction detective story), and then to Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. If you don’t know it, it’s about an imagined version of post-war America, in which the Allies lost World War II, and the Western part of the United States is now a Japanese protectorate. Like (almost) all of Dick’s work, it’s twisty and bizarre and strangely moving; these are qualities I have aspired to in The Last Policeman and Countdown City…

…and also the third and final book in the series, World of Trouble, which is now in that nebulous, painful state between first and final draft, which means that I, myself, am in that nebulous, painful state between thinking myself an inventive, ambitious writer and hating myself for being such a miserable talentless fraud. (Which is why it’s nice, on this particular day, to be nominated for an award.) Now, off the internet and back to work!

(Although I will be back on the internet, if not before, then in mid-March, when I’ll be a featured author in the 2014 #TwitterFiction Festival)

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