Ellen Klages, Toastmaster of the 2014 Nebula Awards

I am so excited that Ellen Klages is going to be the Toastmaster for this year’s Nebula Award weekend!

The announcement went up on SFWA’s website a bit ago, but I just wanted to repeat it for people who missed it. And also because it’s so awesome.

I’m a big fan of Ellen Klages’s writing. One of my favorites young adult fantasy story “The House of the Seven Librarians” which first appeared in Firebirds Rising and which I got to narrate for PodCastle, and which you can get a kindle single version of, too. But by no means is this the only wonderful thing Ellen has written: you’ve got to check out her collection, Portable Childhoods. I mean that. Check it out. It’s got a number of really smart stories, including her first ever published story, “Time Gypsy,” which I love for its description of a particular moment in lesbian history (and its invocation of early women scientists). I also really like the titular story, “Portable Childhoods,” which isn’t genre at all, but instead an interesting set of vignettes which together create an emotionally affecting arc about mother and daughter.

There are also fantastic stories by Ellen that don’t appear in her collection. Probably my favorite of those is “The Education of a Witch” which first appeared in Under My Hat, edited by Jonathan Strahan. It’s about a young girl who identifies with the evil queen character in Snow White instead of the princess.

I say “probably my favorite” because it’s hard to decide between that and “Wakulla Springs”, which you can find on Tor.com. She cowrote this novella with Andy Duncan who is also brilliant, and it’s on this year’s Nebula ballot.

Ellen is a keen observer of setting and dialogue, but particularly skilled at creating realistic, non-sentimental writing about children and the experience of childhood. More than almost any other writer, she captures the details and disjunctions of childhood in a way that is both strongly tied to time and place (she often writes about the fifties) but also emotionally recognizable to me as a child of the eighties. She doesn’t get bogged down in adult ideas of what “childhood is like,” but looks at it with a sharp, clear eye.

Ellen is also very funny. She’s been working the Tiptree auction at Wiscon for many years where she stirs the audience with improvisation. She’s an animated delight in conversation. Annually at FogCon, she appears on the Liar’s Panel, which as you might imagine involves lying wildly. She told me that last year, she accidentally told a bunch of true stories, and no one noticed because they were so funny and strange. Just talking to her is like that: she has a well of funny, true anecdotes and observations. I’m excited to see that energy and storytelling ability translate to the Nebula podium.

There aren’t very many women toastmasters on the convention circuit. Connie Willis does her amusing duty from time to time, which is awesome, but I’d love to see more ladies taking the stage. In addition to Ellen Klages, I hope conventions will consider Charlie Jane Anders, Mary Robinette Kowal, and other talented women performers for future ceremonies.

This is going to be a great Nebulas. With Ellen Klages there as toastmaster, and Samuel Delany coming in as our new Grandmaster (squee!)… I’m really excited to get to be there and to hear such talented people speak.

This year’s Nebula Awards Weekend is May 15th to 18th, 2014, at the Marriott in San Jose. There are more details on the SFWA website.

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