Recently, the Nebula Award nominees for this year were announced. Out of curiosity, I decided to check out of few to find out what’s considered winning fiction. Since they were shorter, I read the short stories. OK, that’s not the only reason. I’ve been writing a few pieces of short fiction lately, and wanted to compare my efforts to the winners. Here are my impressions:
“Robot” by Helena Ball
Not your usual story with beginning, middle and end. But I could feel the sadness, desperation and even anger of the person speaking, expressed all through instructions to their robot. An inventive, creative way of dealing with the theme of loneliness in old age.
“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard
Another sad story, this one about cultural alienation. Many layers, multiple points of view about conforming to another culture’s idea of beauty. This one is also not told in the typical linear fashion.
“Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes” by Tom Crosshill
This story is about letting go of a dying loved one, or keeping them “alive” forever. It explores the uses of technology to do this, and how people change in the process. Thought-provoking, as it makes me think about how avoiding one’s own pain can lead to some very selfish actions.
“Nanny’s Day” by Leah Cypress
Finally, a story with a little more upbeat tone. This one explores child custody laws in a society that can test emotional attachment. Children are awarded to the person they are most attached to, whether that is one of the biological parents or the primary caretaker, in this story, the nanny. It also looks into what it calls bioism, or favoring the biological parent over the caretakers. Interesting twist at the end.
“Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream” by Maria Dahvana Headley
This one gets more into the fantasy genre. It’s the story of a pair who fall in love and the revenge their betrayed spouses (a witch and a magician) take on them. Creepy villains, horrible revenge.
“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” by Ken Liu
Very imaginative and inventive, this story tells of 5 alien peoples and how they record for posterity, or how they read what’s been left by others. It speaks to a universal desire to understand the world around and the increasing wisdom and knowledge people accumulate. This was my favorite of the nominees.
“Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” by Cat Rambo
Another inventive story of a tour guide from a world where all the inhabitants are made of porcelain (or if of a lower class, clay). She falls in love with a human, only to pay a high price.
For me, all seven were enjoyable reads that took me into another world and caused me to see problems of life in different ways. I can see why they all were nominated.
I also read one of the novels, Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312. Never having read any of his work before, I was blown away by his detailed world-building and the hard science fiction aspect. The protagonist was annoying and some of the way the plot was resolved was a little shaky, but these did not take away from this imaginative look at our Solar System 300 years into the future. The world building and descriptions of that world make it a far more enjoyable read for me than many other sci-fi novels I’ve read that are stronger on characters and plot. If you like plot driven, action packed fiction, this isn’t the book for you. If you seek intelligent fiction that stretches your mind and your vocabulary, you’ll love this one.
To see the complete list of nominees or to read the samples for yourself, stop over to Galley Cat.