The First Time

By Steve Vertlieb: It has been stated, and rather wisely, I think, that when you experience it for “the first time,” it remains a life defining interlude that one takes with them forever. No matter its quality or length, or even the frequency with which it did or didn’t re-occur, it shall ever be the start of a coming-of-age journey that, for better or for worse, began a new, fondly remembered chapter that somehow altered the very course of your life. For me, that moment occurred in 1981 when I was just thirty-five years old, and I was presented with my first writing award. Wait … What did YOU think that I was talking about??????

Anyway, I traveled to Baltimore, Maryland where my then publisher and friend, George Stover, accompanied me to a genre related convention, and I was presented with a trophy for “Best Writer of the Year” by the “Maryland Association of Fan Clubs” for my provocative, quasi-Freudian essay in Cinemacabre Magazine regarding the symbolism and meaning behind Ridley Scott’s horror masterpiece, Alien.

As I recall, a vast variety of categories and recipients populated the ceremony, including “Best Actor” in a televised daytime drama (“Soap Opera”), for which the grateful thespian offered a deeply emotional acceptance speech during which he profusely volunteered his gratitude for most of his early theatrical opportunities to virtually everyone in the dinner ballroom.

Consequently, not wishing to be outdone by this consummate CBS Television professional, I devised a similarly tear stained speech in which I shared my own heartfelt gratitude for this singular honor, and said “From the bottom of my heart, I just want to say that … this was the worst chicken dinner that I’ve ever had in my life.”

The ballroom erupted into laughter, but I can still remember the angry glares coming from the kitchen staff as I exited the stage, and returned to my table. Here, then, is that very special first literary award that I ever received as “Best Writer of the Year, 1981,” from the “M.A.F.C.”

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