Issue 193 – October 2022


Editor's Desk: Sweet Sixteen

It’s difficult to believe that sixteen years have passed since we published our first issue. Around two thousand of you can claim to have been there at the start, but like the size of our magazine, your ranks have swelled in the years since, too! About eight thousand words of fiction and a piece of cover art were all that made up an issue that first year. Now it’s roughly forty-five thousand words of fiction in both print and audio, ten thousand words of nonfiction, and cover art. That growth has only been possible thanks to your support, and I am extremely grateful for your ongoing contributions which have allowed us to bring so much of our original vision to life. There is still more to do, and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Our sweet sixteen is not all that we are celebrating this month. In fact, a couple of pleasant surprises have rearranged the schedule of things I wanted to talk with you about. If you were hoping for a continuation of last month’s “the future of science fiction is international” commentary, well, that will come next month.

Instead, I’d like to take the time to talk about the Hugos and celebrate some accomplishments, starting with Suzanne Palmer’s Hugo Award win for “Bots of the Lost Ark” (Clarkesworld, June 2021). Everyone here at Clarkesworld is thrilled for Suzanne. This was the second time a Bot 9 story has won the Hugo—the other being “The Secret Life of Bots” in 2018—and gives Suzanne the distinction of being the first author to win two Hugos for their Clarkesworld stories. Congratulations!

There were two more firsts for Clarkesworld this year as well: This was the first time we’ve had two winners in a single year and the first time I’ve won in Editor, Short Form. The idea that this could happen wasn’t even a possibility in my head. Not that I didn’t have faith in Suzanne . . . After nine consecutive losses, I had convinced myself that it wasn’t in the cards for me and I was completely fine with that. It was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been at a Hugo Awards ceremony. So much so that a friend and fellow finalist mocked me for being too laid-back.

So, it turns out I was wrong. Very wrong.

I barely remember getting to the stage. I think what was running through my mind was a combination of “you’re dreaming, wake up” and “you really should have written a speech.” I was at least partially prepared. Some years ago, I scribbled a list of names on a piece of paper and it was still in my jacket pocket. In case of emergency, don’t forget these people.

The list allowed me to at least give the semblance of an acceptance speech, thanking many of the people who got me to that stage. And then I came to my cousin’s name and froze for a moment. I lost Johnny to cancer almost exactly two years ago during some of the worst of the pandemic. He’s the person who gave me my first science fiction books, including an anthology that set me on the path to being a lifelong short fiction reader. It all starts there. With him. I don’t think there was a bigger fan of my work, always cheering me on. He would have been absolutely thrilled to see me on that stage, and in that moment, I knew it. I could feel it.

Backstage, I needed a moment to compose myself and get my heart rate down. This year’s Hugo is particularly sharp, and it wasn’t the time to have one of those moments where my blood pressure takes me to the floor. (Just a factor of my heart damage. I’m good at recognizing the warning signs and preventing any trouble.) I sat on a chair and messaged my wife. During my speech, I mentioned that I didn’t think that Lisa or my sons were watching. (Who could blame them? Award shows can be a slog and they’d paid their dues sitting through many losses.) It turns out I was right. She was keeping an eye on Twitter while watching a movie. The category hadn’t been announced there yet, so I got to be the one to tell her.

I eventually returned to my seat in a total state of shock and the evening blurred a bit until Suzanne won. Two categories later, the ceremony was over and the winners were told to stick around for photos. Sitting backstage, the winners congratulated one another as we waited to be called out. I had someone grab this quick picture of Suzanne and me.

Suzanne Palmer and Neil Clarke with their Hugo Awards

Chicon offered to mail our awards to us, but I was determined to hang on to mine. I took it on a thank-you tour of the bar, the after-party—I would have gone to the room parties, but they were a bit more crowded than I was comfortable with—and eventually, back to my room where I was too excited to sleep. I packed instead. For some reason, the ceremony is always the last night of the con. I’ve always thought that was a missed opportunity and felt it more distinctly this year.

Hugo in tow, I headed to the airport, and after four hours of delays, headed home. The next day, I was informed that I had been exposed to two people who had tested positive for COVID, so after all that, I went into isolation and crashed, exhausted from the six days of travel, excitement, and socializing. I’m sure some anxiety from the exposure was also in play, but ultimately the COVID tests came back negative.

The first time I was nominated for this award was ten years ago, and I had planned to attend that year’s Worldcon in Chicago. After having a heart attack the month before, I had to cancel my trip and was disappointed to miss out on the fun, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. Being able to attend this year was like getting a do-over. Win or lose, it would have had significance.

With that in mind, I’d like to close with a special thank you to Chicon for a wonderful convention and to all the people that voted for Suzanne and me. It was an amazing weekend and something I will remember fondly for a long time.

Author profile

Neil Clarke is the editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, and several anthologies, including the Best Science Fiction of the Year series. He is a ten-time finalist and current winner of the Hugo Award for Best Editor (Short Form), has won the Chesley Award for Best Art Director three times, and received the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award from SFWA in 2019. His latest anthology, New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction (co-edited with Xia Jia and Regina Kanyu Wang), is now available from Clarkesworld Books. He currently lives in NJ with his wife and two sons.

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