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Philip K. Dick Award Winners Announced: A Tie Between Castro and Walton

Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro and Terminal Mind by David Walton tied for the 2008 Philip K. Dick Award, the results presented at a ceremony during Norwescon in Seattle this past Friday. Ties are rare in the history of the award, since judges can award a "special citation" for what amounts to second place. A tie for the award most likely indicates a dead-locked jury. The award is meant to reward the best "original science fiction paperback" published in the United States during the prior calendar year. Philip K. Dick's fiction originally appeared in mass market paperback editions.

Adam Troy-Castro has had a long career in genre and is known for writing complex, edgy fiction. Locus Magazine said of his award-winning novel, "With its creepy background and complex plot, Emissaries from the Dead offers an intriguing combination of SF and detective story, spiced with moments of danger that raise the perils of cliff-hanging an exponential level."

A first novelist, David Walton is a virtual unknown despite winning the Jim Baen Memorial Award for a short story. By publishing Terminal Mind, Meadowhawk Press became just the fourth indie outfit to have a book win the Philip K. Dick Award, the previous three being my own Ministry of Whimsy Press (Stepan Chapman's The Troika in 1998), Small Beer Press (Carol Emshwiller's The Mount in 2002), and Aqueduct Press (Gwenyth Jones' Life in 2004). These inroads by indie presses may reflect two trends: less of the best science fiction now appears first in paperback from commercial publishers (hardcovers being preferred) and more midlist writers have turned to indie presses either from necessity or because of the more individualized treatment they can receive there.

Omnivoracious caught up with a still stunned Walton via email for a short email. Adam-Troy Castro will be featured later this week.

        Emissaries     Terminal What was the spark or catalyst for writing Terminal Mind?

David Walton: Terminal Mind started with the idea that a technology to digitize human minds would have a lot of problems before it could actually deliver immortality. I work in research for a big defense company as my day job, and the cool new technological ideas never work right the first time. Considering all the ethics issues inherent in a technology like this one, the first people to be digitizing minds will be doing it underground, outside the law, willing to accept some mistakes along the way. The story grew from there. Is this a case of finding a publisher right away, or...?

David Walton: I sent it around to the largest houses first, at least those that were accepting unsolicited submissions. Nobody bit. I hadn't really tried any small presses yet, but I had just gotten a short story accepted for a fantasy anthology, Touched By Wonder, published by a new outfit called Meadowhawk Press. I decided to send Terminal Mind to them, and not long after, [publisher] Dan Gamber gave me a call. Meadowhawk has been great, too--a beautiful-looking book, great artwork, a very responsive team.  Jackie [Gamber] even flew out to Seattle to lend moral support for the Philip K. Dick Award presentation. What's most surprised you about reader reaction to the novel?

David Walton: Many people have responded emotionally to one of the main characters in the book, a four-year-old child whose digitized mind has been horribly abused and manipulated. Quite a few readers said they cried for him. I would have thought he would strike people as disturbing, but instead, readers seem to empathize with the horror of his situation. If you were at the ceremony, could you just describe what that experience was like?

David Walton: Nerve-wracking at first, and then euphoric! I could barely eat anything, and of course they design the ceremony to drag out the suspense. I was chatting with Gordon Van Gelder before the ceremony started, and naturally he knew that Terminal Mind had won, but he didn't give me so much as a clue. Various people spoke, the authors read excerpts, until finally it was time to read the winners. I must say, I was astonished to win. I was the only one of the nominees with only one novel to my name, and some of the others were New York Times bestsellers with international distribution, Hugo/Nebula nominees, etc. I thought myself clearly the underdog, and I was happy just to be nominated. To win was thrilling beyond expectation. What are you currently working on?

David Walton: Not a sequel to Terminal Mind, though the ending does leave the possibility open. My current novel project is what I'm calling a science fantasy. It's set in an alternate age of exploration and science, in a world where the Heavens really do meet the Earth at the Horizon, and where natural philosophers use the scientific method to understand the limits of their world's magic.


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