Nebula Awards Showcase 2010. (ed Bill Fawcett, Roc 2010).

I’ve just finished reading the Hugo Awards Showcase 2010, the first such Hugo anthology for 15 years. That volume contained purely fiction, with no commentary. When I finally got round to this volume, I was shocked at just how little fiction there was in it. The Nebula Awards series has varied over the years in the balance between fiction and commentary, but with just three stories in this year’s volume, it didn’t take me long to get through it in terms of producing a review of the stories in the volume. Here goes:

Catherina Asaro’s ‘The Spacetime Pool’ won Best Novella. When it appeared orginally in Analog March 2008, I reviewed it at length (click here for that review) but for the purposes of this review, here are the opening and closing paragraphs

    ..a story which feels more like it should be written by a nerdy male scientist type, in its having an attractive young woman wearing a flimsy harem-type outfit escaping from peril using her mathematical skills.
    If I may be allowed to play further the part of amateur psycho-analyst, there appears to be an intriguing subtext here for Ms Asaro, in fantasing a world in which she can hide her academic and mathematical prowess (even to the extent of violently removing her family who know this version of her) to move to a world in which she can play the petite object of lust that swoons into the manly arms of the bemuscled alpha male (but secretly maintaining her intellect).

For the record, FWIW, this story won the Nebula ahead of Gregory Benford’s ‘Dark Heaven’, Kelly Eskridge’s ‘Dangerous Space’, Charles Coleman Finlay’s’The Political Prisoner’ and Vera Nazarian’s ‘The Duke in His Castle’.

John Kessel’s ‘Pride and Prometheus’ won the Best Novelette category, ahead of James Alan Gardner’s ‘The Ray-Gun: A Love Story’, Lisa Goldstein’s ‘Dark Rooms’, Richard Bowes’ ‘If Angels Fight’, Mary Ronseblum’s ‘Night Wind’, Johanna Sinisalo’s ‘Baby Doll’, and K.D. Wentworth’s ‘Kaleidoscope’. I didn’t make much of a comment of Kessel’s story when it first appeared, in contrast to the Gardner and Bowes stories, which had fulsome praise heaped upon them.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s ‘The Trophy Wives’ from the anthology Fellowship Fantasic won the Best Short Story, ahead of Mike Allen’s ‘The Button Bin’, Jeffrey Ford’s ‘The Dreaming Wind’, Kij Johnson’s ’26 Monkeys, also The Abyss’, Gwyneth Jones’ ‘The Tomb Wife’, James Patrick Kelly’s ‘Don’t Stop’, Ruth Nestvold’s ‘Mars: A Traveler’s Guide’. I hadn’t read the Hoffman story before, and tellingly, it wasn’t picked up by any of the four Year’s Best anthologists.

I have to admit it’s a head scratcher. The SFFWA choices are clearly driven to some degree by agendas other than purely a measure of the ‘best’ story. That’s all fine and dandy, and I’m not going to worry too much about it, as there are far, far more important things to worry about. But this story is set in the far future, and two women, who have an empathic/telepathic link, are evidently happy to hide their lesbian relationship by one of them living as a husband to a man, and the other as living with them as a domestic servant, happy to spend her time shopping for food and drinking coffee. Furthermore, the wife has previously been happy to have lived for some time in a bubble, as a trophy wife to a toad-like alien. And in ‘rescuing’ a woman destined for toady trophy-wife status, they are happy to find a woman who is ok about taking her place, as it’s better than living on the streets. Am I missing something? There’s a comment box below, please do let me know if I’m missing something. Especially with the aforementioned Spacetime Pool having some issues for me about gender roles.

Fiction aside, there’s a whole heap of commentary and articles. And a bit of the Wall-E script. No, really! So your enjoyment of this volume is going to rest entirely on your desire to have lots of commentary. Even with three of the really good stories of 2007/2008 instead of the three chosen, there wouldn’t be whole lot of bang for your buck if it’s just a read of good SF that you’re after.

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