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ArmadilloCon 22

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Mary Doria Russell

Mary exploded on the science fiction scene in 1997, when the jury for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award had their attention drawn to a first-contact novel which had been circulating under the guise of a mainstream novel. The jurors decided that The Sparrow was indeed a novel which questioned traditional notions of gender and sex roles, both human and alienkind; they awarded the Tiptree to The Sparrow and proceeded to bring this incredible novel to the attention of as many sf readers as they could manage.

The Sparrow might have had a slow start in the sf community, but it had legs. In addition to the Tiptree Award, it won the 1998 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award in the same year. That year Mary also won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, presented at the Hugo Awards ceremony at Bucconeer. The sequel to The Sparrow, Children of God, was a Hugo Award nominee itself in 1999.

But I think that Mary herself would tell you that the awards she is most proud of receiving are the 1998 Cleveland Arts Council Prize for Literature and the 1999 Friends of the Library Readers Choice Award. Mary is a woman very involved in her community: she gave half of her considerable advance for The Sparrow to help build a library for an inner-city elementary school in one of Cleveland's worst neighborhoods. She is still trying to save every sparrow.

Mary's a restless soul: she's been a paleobiologist, a teacher, a technical writer, and now a novelist. She grew up Catholic, but converted to Judaism. Now she tells us that her next book will not be science fiction at all, that her orbit brought her in close to our community for two spectacular books, and now she is swinging away again, into the realm of historical thriller. No matter. Now that we've discovered her, we don't intend to let Mary out of our sight again. She is just too good a writer to let go.

Remarks by Carrie Richerson

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