The Skylark Award, or more formally, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction” is presented annually by NESFA at Boskone to honor significant contributions to science fiction in the spirit of E.E. “Doc” Smith. The award was first presented in 1966 to Frederik Pohl. The award takes the form of a lens on top of a podium. When Jane Yolen received the award in 1990, she placed the award in the picture window in her kitchen. On the next clear day, the lens focused the sun’s rays and burnt Yolen’s coat. Ever since, this cautionary tale has been related to the award’s winner.
The Edmond Hamilton/Leigh Brackett Memorial Award was presented at Octocon by the Spellbinders Foundation in the 1970s and 80s, with the award voted on by the attending membership of the convention. The convention and the award were only in existence for a handful of years, with the first award presented in 1977 to Katherine Kurtz at Octocon 1. The award recognized promotion of the “sense of wonder” in science fiction and fantasy. Some sources list the award as going, in general to the author, while other sources indicated the award was presented for a specific work.
Jack L. Chalker was born on December 17, 1944 and died on February 11, 2005.
Although Chalker may be best known for his Well of Souls series of novels, his only Hugo Award nominations were for his amateur magazine, Mirage, in 1963 and his non-fiction book The Science Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History: Third Edition, co-written with Mark Owings. The book also won the Readercon Award in 1992. Chalker was a two-time nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In 1980 he received the Skylark Award from NESFA, and in 2005 he posthumously received the Phoenix Award from DeepSouthCon.
Chalker wrote “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night” for Mike Resnick’s 1992 anthology Alternate Presidents. The story has never been reprinted. It was his last published piece of short fiction, although Chalker continued to publish novels and non-fiction.
Set in a rooming house in Albany, New York, “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night” takes place in a world in which following James Buchanan’s death during the election of 1856, Millard Fillmore is able to capture a second term on the Know-Nothing ticket. Fully embracing his anti-immigration stance, Fillmore is in thrall to the Southerners who helped elect him and promotes pro-slavery policies, including the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act passed during his first term in 1850. His policies have caused unrest in New England, resulting in a second Boston Massacre when troops opened fire on citizens trying to stop a runaway slave from being taken back to the South.
The rooming house is a collection of men who have business with the New York state legislature, although one of them, Mr. Green, keeps to himself, leading another, Mr. Morgan, to question his purpose. The two play a cat and mouse game revealing that they actually have been aware of each other for quite some time. While both claim, like all the men in the rooming house, to oppose Fillmore’s agenda, they have very different methods of fighting for what they believe is right.