The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were awarded last night, and Spear won the Ray Bradbury Award. Apparently it is a Queer Arthurian Masterpiece. I am pleased—ha! English understatement! I am fucking thrilled, delighted, and beaming! I haven’t stopped grinning since my editor at FSG, Sean Macdonald, texted me 13 hours ago.

But I’m also surprised. Before you roll your eyes let me say what I’ve already said a dozen times in the last month because it bears repeating: this is not false modesty. I’m not modest about this book at all. It’s a fucking great book. Pound for pound it was as good as anything on last night’s shortlist: Alex Jennings’ The Ballad of Perilous Graves has already won the Crawford Award; Ray Nayler’s fabulous exploration of alien intelligence, The Mountain in the Sea, is a great science fiction debut (and, like Spear, also on the Nebula shortlist); I haven’t read Sara Gran’s book yet but the reviews are good; and George Saunders, well, he’s already won Big Lit Prizes (though I admit I didn’t even attempt to read his collection because me and his work just don’t get along). Go read the beginning of that sentence again: “pound for pound.” Because that’s the thing: size matters.

Spear is a very short book1— it’s been reviewed as both a novel and a novella, and not a few reviewers complain that as a novel it’s too short, while others mutter that it tries to do too much for a novella. I disagree on both counts, of course—I think the book takes exactly the right number of words to do what it does—but the sentiment is widespread. I never call it either a Novel or a Novella and instead refer to it as a Book—or sometimes joke that it needs a new term, maybe Noveling?

So, yeah, did I really think the Los Angeles Times would give my wee noveling a prize? No—and confidently declared as much. Because I really was confident. Over the last 30 years I’ve got pretty good at forecasting my own chances: I’ve been right every time except, well, except the last time one of my books was up for something, when So Lucky won the Washington State Book Award. And, again, it was the length of the book that tripped me up.2

So now I honestly don’t know what to think about Spear’s chances for other awards. Until 12 hours ago I was absolutely confident that I wouldn’t win the Nebula next month but now I’m really not sure. I suspect that as the awards banquet approaches I’ll grow hopeful. Because although my head still says Nope, my heart has started to whisper, Maybe? Either way, I am not complaining! I plan to have a blast in Anaheim next month, win or lose.3

So if you’re going to be there please come and say hello. I’ll be the one grinning her fool head off.

1 So short that at 45,000 words it technically qualifies as a novella for awards like the Hugo (which allow a 20% word-count overage for its categories)—which of course means that some people will vote for it in that category, and others in the Novel category which means, by my reckoning (which, y’know, we’ve already establish is flawed), it probably won’t make the shortlist for either category…

2 So Lucky really is a novella—35,000 words—and would be categorised as such by any genre award committee (though of course it was never considered for any genre awards—despite being stuffed with imaginary beings and monsters). And, yes, even though I didn’t expect to win I’d given some thought to a thank-you speech just in case. The cost-benefit analysis of taking half an hour to plan for something that won’t happen versus regretting feeling like a fool when you’re speechless in front of hundreds of people is clear. It’s like looking both ways when you cross the street, or using your seatbelt. You don’t expect to be hit by a moving vehicle but What If?

3 Just as I’d planned to have a stress-free blast in Los Angeles this weekend but after a last-minute phone conversation with the Director of Events, withdrew. But that’s a story for another post.