Aliza Greenblatt, 32, chose A.T. Greenblatt as her pen name in her 20s. Her reasoning then, as she understands it now, was fairly simple. She wanted a little distance between her private life as a writer, and her professional one as a mechanical engineer. But there was another important factor, too.
“I thought it was cool,” she said with a laugh.
Though she admits she may have chosen a different name today, A.T. Greenblatt is the name that adorns this year’s Nebula Award for Best Short Story.
The Nebula Awards, given annually by a panel of judges from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, are the most prestigious prizes in the English-speaking science fiction and fantasy world. Greenblatt beat out thousands of other writers with her story, “Give the Family My Love,” telling the tale of a strange new planet and what the astronaut narrator finds there.
Greenblatt was “a stammering mess” when she found out she’d been nominated back in February, and was looking forward to attending the SFWA Nebula Conference, where she’d have gotten to see friends and colleagues while she collected her award. Still, she knows the recognition is nothing to sneeze at.
“To have something that catches people’s attention like that, even just to be a finalist, is a remarkable honor, because there’s so much good stuff getting published,” she said.
Greenblatt is a native of Abington, and grew up as a member of Beth Sholom Congregation, where her family still belongs. From a young age, she was drawn to storytelling; one tale of hers, in elementary school, “blew people away,” she said. “They weren’t expecting it from me. And it was like, ‘Whoa, stories have power.’”
As a child, she developed a strong interest in “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings” and sci-fi/fantasy more generally.
“It was always the sense of wonder in those books,” she said. “It was the idea that it couldn’t exist in any other form except stories. You’re never gonna find a dragon roaming around, but you could open a book and expect that. So, always to me, it’s been like a portal into another world.”
She fiddled around a bit with writing in high school, but that stopped in college. Though she minored in English at the University of Delaware, she majored in mechanical engineering, and that took up most of her time. The English classes she did take were rarely creative in nature. Still, she got to read a lot of great books.
Right out of school, Greenblatt got a job as a mechanical engineer in West Chester, where she still lives, still working for the same company. Over her time there, she’s developed friendships and gotten to know the area, but at the beginning, she didn’t know anyone. So, what better way to spend some time and meet people, she thought, than a night school short-story writing class?
Soon, she was writing as much as she could, taking time every week to write new stories and immerse herself in short stories by other writers. In 2011, she published her first story, an experience she looks back at with a combination of joy and skepticism. No editing, no contract, which is to say, not something she’d do now; still, the excitement was worth it, and though she’d already called herself a writer, now she could claim to be a published one, to boot.
Two years later, she landed in her first big sci-fi publication. Daily Science Fiction sends new stories out daily to its paying subscribers, and Greenblatt had long looked forward to getting her work in front of that many readers.
“That’s kind of when it started feeling real,” she said.
Over the past few years, Greenblatt has become a regular feature in science fiction magazines. This past weekend, she was even invited to give a reading of her work for the Free Library of Philadelphia, a regular stop for writers of repute. But besides the joy of seeing her words in print, it’s become a means to meet writers with similar interests, all over the country.
For Greenblatt, the real reward of science fiction and fantasy is the same as it’s always been, award be damned: stepping through the portal and looking around.
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