Reviews

The Nebulas Are Not About Elitism, But About Giving a Platform to Good Sci-fi Stories

Nebula Awards Showcase 2015 shows that contemporary literary sci-fi is in rude health.


Nebula Awards Showcase 2015

Publisher: Pyr
Author: Matthew Kressel, Greg Bear, eds.
Publication date: 2015-12
Amazon

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Nebula Awards, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s annual series of prizes for the best sci-fi published in the USA, and is one of the most prestigious awards in sci-fi circles. This year’s collection of winners and nominees is edited by none other than Greg Bear, whose 30 plus novels and countless short stories make him uniquely qualified for the role, and Bear acknowledges the co-editorship in all but name of his wife, fellow writer Astrid Anderson Bear, due to a medical emergency.

As usual, there's much here of worth. The winner of the Best Short Story category, Rachel Swirsky’s ‘If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love’, is a moving and elegiac tale of lost love. Elegantly expressed and formally perfect, it builds delightfully to its poignant climax, netting Swirsky a second Nebula after her 2010 success with the novella The Lady Who Plucked Red Flower Beneath the Queen’s Window.

The category nominees also uniformly impress, but the standout among them is surely Matthew Kressel’s ‘The Sounds of Old Earth’, the story of an old man on a largely evacuated and denuded Earth awaiting its destruction by space-based laser in order to use the resultant raw materials for a gigantic piece of space engineering. The sense of resignation has extraordinary resonance in today’s world, in which the destruction of people’s homes through flooding and natural disaster is becoming worryingly commonplace, and the image of the Earth being sliced into pieces like a hard-boiled egg is one that will stay in the memory. This was Kressel’s first Nebula nomination but, one feels, almost certainly not his last.

Elsewhere, the Novelette category brims with good entries. The prolific Ken Liu weighs in with a masterful work entitled ‘The Litigation Master and the Monkey King’. Liu’s prose -- subtle, authoritative, quietly excellent -- continues to bear all of the hallmarks of his peerless ‘Mono No Aware’, the 2013 Hugo Award winner for Best Short Story. Set in 18th century Qing China, the story cavorts effortlessly from the thoughts of the eponymous king, a sort of devil on the shoulder of protagonist Tian Holi, and the grisly political intrigues of the Imperial Court. With a heady mix of internal monologues (or should that be dialogues), governmental cover-ups, and lost books, it's an undoubted pick.

The award for Best Novel is picked up by Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (Orbit), represented here by a breathless six-page first-person excerpt. The awards for poetry are no less impressive. Terry A. Garey’s ‘The Cat Star’ wins the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s 2013 Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem, and is included here. Managing the difficult trick of being light-hearted yet profound at the same time, it consists of nothing less than a star-struck paean to the domestic short-haired cat, while Deborah P. Kolodji’s small but perfectly formed ‘Bashō After Cinderella (III)’ bags the Dwarf Star Award for poems of ten or fewer lines. A mere eight words long, it's a timely reminder to those of us long inured to 500-page space opera that sci-fi doesn't necessarily have to be all about the grand gesture.

For those outside sci-fi circles -- the ‘Not We’, as a certain cadre of fans call them -- the whole business of sci-fi awards has been anathema in recent times, mostly due to the furor reported last year when the Sad Puppies group of writers and fans lobbied to get certain authors onto the nomination lists for the Worldcon’s Hugo Awards. The Sad Puppies’ nominees were white and male; a reaction to the perception that increasing numbers of female writers and writers of colour are finding their way onto the shortlists. The bevy of votes for ‘no award’ in each affected category at Spokane’s Worldcon in August was a welcome riposte to the guyed lists, but also had the effect of sidelining the most important thing about any literary awards: the literature. The Nebulas, like the Hugos, are not about elitism, but about giving a platform to good stories, and about showing appreciation, of recognising quality. Nebula Awards Showcase 2015 shows that in that sense at least, contemporary literary sci-fi is far from lacking.

9


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.