I had a great time at the recent World Fantasy Convention, not least of all because I won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. I’ll talk about the convention in more detail later, but for now I’d like to write the things I wish I’d said when accepting the award.
I didn’t expect to win at all. I hoped, of course, but I thought I knew who would and it wasn’t me. Turned out it was, though, and as a surprise it did leave me without an acceptance speech.
I think I managed to thank a few people. I say “I think” because that part of the ceremony is a bit of a blank. I remember hearing my name read out and exclaiming a far from eloquent “fuck” at the dinner table. I remember repeating that word all the way down to the stage, passing various tables of people I didn’t dare look at because I was concentrating so much on not being the first to trip over their own feet. I remember stepping up to the stage.
And that’s it, really.
There’s a great picture taken by Christopher Teague (which I’ll post here later) that captures my mood perfectly – stunned amazement and more than a little disbelief. I do believe in the story, I’m proud of the story, but the moment of holding the award had a certain ‘too good to be true’ vibe that had me doubting everything. I can’t remember if I thanked Ramsey Campbell (I hope so) and I can’t remember if I snatched the award from his hands (I hope not). I remember seeing all the people looking at me but only as indistinct shapes as I tried to think of something to say.
I’m told I thanked Andy Cox. This is good, as he’s provided a home for many of my stories. I thanked Victoria Leslie, too, which is as it should be – she’s my constant first reader whose support goes way beyond helpful story feedback. She’s been there for me through some rock-bottom writing times and a thank you was the least I could do. I’m told I thanked Munkey, Pickles, and Kev as well. The less I say about that, the better.
And then I did something possibly a bit naff, a bit cheesy – I thanked other writers. I stand by this, though. I’ve no idea where it came from, but the sentiments were sincere at the time and still are now. It was having so much fun reading that made me want to be a writer in the first place, and I felt I had to thank the people who motivated that. Okay, lots of the ones I admire were at the awards, lots of them are very famous, and that might have made me look a bit of a suck-up, but it was true. I also strongly suspect I made a hash of it – I remember trying to say something like “reading is why I write” (which is itself a bit of a messy statement) but I fear I may have mumbled or reversed the word order or gone all Yoda on it. I hope not.
I should have thanked others, but I was in a rush to get back off that stage (and to my wine, lots of wine, fuck I needed wine). So I’d like to remedy that lack of thanks here. Just a few – I’ll try not to turn it into the Oscars or something. But you don’t have to read it, you know. I do have to say it, though.
My mother and my sister have always been supportive of my dreams to be a writer. My sister would write with me when we were kids. We’d use sketch books, ruling lines across half of each page for the text and leaving space above for the illustrations. My sister featured in a lot of my stories too, including my first ‘published’ one – ‘The Blue River’, read aloud on local radio when I was six. I mention this because that story had a shark in it as well, “but we ignored it and it went away”. Classic. As for my mother, recently she sent me writing of her own that I had no idea she’d ever produced, stories and poems she’d written for her own pleasure as part of a secret life I’d never noticed as a kid because she was always Mum, never Marie. Writing must be in the blood or something. So thanks Mum, and thanks Steph.
I should thank Mitch Larney as well, part of my writing group at work. He and Victoria are both responsible for catching my mistakes. Thanks buddy, I owe you coffee (you can inject it straight into your veins, it works quicker that way). You’ll see his stuff soon, I’ve no doubt.
Reviewers don’t get thanked enough. I do read my reviews, despite (good?) advice against it. The positive reviews give me just the boost I need to carry on writing when I have to teach and do my marking and, you know, life stuff as well, whereas some of the negative reviews have motivated me to try harder. Not all of them, but some. I’m always thankful when someone takes the time and makes the effort to voice an opinion of my work.
Finally, a special thanks are due to Jason Whittle and his son Jacob. Jacob was kind enough to lend the power of his shark tooth for luck. It worked, guys. Thanks for that.
So, there you go – the thank yous I should have said. I could have made witty Jaws references too, I suppose, something about needing a bigger shelf (though that wouldn’t work for a first award) and maybe I should’ve remembered Chief Brody’s comment, “smile you sonofabitch” but I’m not so sure I could at the time.
Like I said, I needed my wine.
(And hey, it could have been worse – I could have followed John Llewellyn Probert…)