Another handsome volume added to my groaning bookshelves – and my groaning wife, whose own book collection is a handsome enough one, but dwarfed by my SF collection, and that’s even after some *shock* pruning a month or two back.
I’ve not taken that much notice of the nominees/winners since the SFWA became the SFFWA and a Nebula Award could no longer be seen as a recognition of the best SF story of the year. Recent awards to stories that weren’t either SF or F have also bemused me, but I have neither the time nor inclination to get into (or even read about) *that* debate.
But what this volume does, which hasn’t always been the case, is concentrate on the fiction, and presents in the order of nominees/winner, the stories in each category, which for an anally retentive librarian/aggregator/curator is a good thing.
So let’s have a run through of the content with mention of any stories I have read.
First nominee up in the Short Story Award is ‘Sarah Pinsker. A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide. (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2014)’ which I noted was ‘..an unsettling story full of yearning for what you can’t have’ (review here). It was a story that I recall as being a good read, but not one I would have put down as a Nebula contender.
Next up is ‘Aliette de Bodard. The Breath of War. (Beneath the Ceaseless Skies)’ which is online here, in an online magazine which publishes ‘literary adventure fantasy’.
‘Usman T. Malik. The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family. (Qaulia Nous)’ won the Bram Stoker Award (a horror and dark fantasy award), and was first published in the anthology Qualia Nous, a ‘literary blend of science fiction and horror’. You can listen to the story on Tor.com or read it here.
‘Matthew Kressel. The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye. (Clarkesworld Magazine)’ is still available on the excellent online magazine in which it appeared here. Let’s hope the current crop of online magazines don’t disappear like the stories on early trend-setter SCI FICTION did (those silly silly SYFY people).
‘Eugie Foster. When It Ends, He Catches Her. (Daily Science Fiction).’ was published the day after Eugie passed away. It is still online.
In noted when reading ‘Alyssa Wong. The Fisher Queen. (Fantasy and Science Fiction)’ that it was ‘A first professional sale from Wong and she tells her selkie tale well..’ (full review), but as above, it didn’t leap out at me as one of the best half dozen short stories of the year.
Concluding the short story sequence is Nebula Award Winner. Best Short Story : ‘Ursula Vernon. Jackalope Wives. (Apex Magazine)’ is still online on Apex here. Reviewing the story in LocusOnline, Lois Tilton noted, after one story in the magazine that was downright bad, that this was ‘Fine prose imagery and dialogue, strong characters, a neat invented folklore, and a surprising twist near the end.’ This was the first issue of Apex under new editorial guidance, and I did start reading it. But whereas Tilton read that first awful story and pressed on, I read a few pages of that first story, mouth agape (not figuratively, but literally) and tossed the issue aside (not literally, but figuratively, as it was a PDF) and therefore missed out on reading Vernon’s story.
The Best Novelette nominees are available in full : ‘Richard Bowes’ ‘Sleep Walking Now and Then’ (Tor.com – online here), Kai Ashante Wilson’s ‘The Devil in America’ (Tor.com – online here), Carmen Maria Machado’s ‘The Husband Stitch’ (Granta – online here), Tom Crosshill’s ‘The Magician and Laplace’s Demon’ (Clarkesworld – online here) and from a new writer making a name for himself Sam J. Miller’s ‘We Are The Cloud’ (Lightspeed – online here).
The novelette sequence ends with Nebula Award Winner Best Novelette : Alaya Dawn Johnson. ‘A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i’. (Fantasy and Science Fiction, July/August 2014) which is one of the stories in this volume I had previously read, and I noted that it was a ‘strong story’ (full review)
The novella nominees are represented in the volume with short excerpts, namely : Lawrence M. Schoen’s ‘Calendrical Regression’ (chapbook), Mary Rickert’s ‘The Mothers of Voorhisville’ (Tor.com), Ken Liu’s ‘The Regular’ (Upgraded), and Rachel Swirsky’s ‘Grand Jete (The Great Leap)’ (Subterranean).
Then we have Nebula Award Winner. Best Novella. Nancy Kress. Yesterday’s Kin. (Tachyon Press), all 100 pages of it! My suggestion to SFFWA in terms of addressing the issue over the volume of fiction to fit into one volume, would be to identify those stories that are available electronically, and to be selective in putting those in the volume (supplying a link to the online story) so that they could put in some of the longer stories that aren’t available electronically.
And with the exception of a list of past winners, the volume concludes with the opening chapter from Nebula Award Winner. Best Novel. Jeff Vandermeer’s ‘Annihilation’. (FSG Originals).
And that’s it. About 99% fiction, unlike some years when there was in fact more commentary than fiction. So in terms of a good example of the Nebula nominees and winners, with the proviso that the substantial Kress novella pushed out other nominees in that category (other than excerpts), the anthology succeeds in what it sets out to do – presenting what the members of SFFWA voted for in their ballot for the best science fiction and fantasy of the year in question.
You can browse full listings of all the previous 49 issues on Best SF here. It does appear the volume misses the opportunity to flag up it is the 50th in the sequence!