Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thoughts on Nebula Nominees 2008: Short Stories

Given that the Hugo Nominations are out, I figure I should get back on to writing about the Nebula Nominees. I have three novellas to read, but I have finished the Novelettes and the Short Stories. I’m not sure how far I will get on the Novels.

Short Stories
"Unique Chicken Goes In Reverse," by Andy Duncan
"Always," by Karen Joy Fowler
"Titanium Mike Saves the Day," by David D. Levine
"The Story of Love," by Vera Nazarian
"Captive Girl," by Jennifer Pelland
"Pride," by Mary Turzillo

There are some good shorts here in this list of nominees. I rather like Andy Duncan’s “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” from Eclipse One. It’s a story of a priest visiting a family whose young daughter has a chicken named Jesus Christ which she believes has miraculous powers. I found the story to have a much softer feel to it than I had anticipated given the title. The ending, as such, is a bit of an anti-climax, but the whole concept of the story is so fascinating that I’m happy to have read it.

Not so with Vera Nazarian’s “The Story of Love”. I wanted to quit the story by the second page, but I persevered. It’s a short story and it is nominated for the Nebula. Surely it is worth continuing. Not so, I say, not so. An unloved daughter finds love and learns to love after having been traded in marriage for a dowry (as happens / happened in “olden days”). There’s redemption, and I think some readers will be enraptured by Nazarian’s prose. Not I, said the not at all self conscious reviewer. Not I.

“Always” by Karen Joy Fowler is not at all what one might expect, though this is my first experience reading Fowler, so maybe I’m wrong. The story features a girl joining a cult promising immortality, but it is a very thoughtful story and while it could be read as a cautionary tale, I don’t think that’s it. It’s been quite a while since I last read “Always”, and it isn’t a story which has stuck with me, but it’s a good story.

Mary Turzillo’s “Pride” is from the outstanding anthology Fast Forward 1 (edited by Lou Anders). Excellent story, as is most everything out of Fast Forward. We’ve got a guy stealing a kitten out of a laboratory which tests animals, only to discover than the kitten will grow much larger than your average cat. Much. The story focuses on Kevin’s attempts to raise the animal and keep it protected from the authorities while eventually protecting his family from the animal. It’s a big cat. Such an interesting story. Yeah, that’s an overused word “interesting”, but “Pride” is a story I’m glad I read and one I wanted to keep reading after it was done.

I admit to a certain fondess for David Levine’s “Titanium Mike Saves the Day”. It’s a story about stories and telling stories, which normally makes my ass itch. But “Titanium Mike” is written so that there is a legend of a guy named Titanium Mike who helped out spacefarers in various outlandish ways and each time the Titanium Mike story is told it is to break the ice or relax a situation and get results done, because that’s what Titanium Mike does. Only, here, in “Titanium Mike Saves the Day” the story is broken up so that each time the story is told, the next section of the story is an earlier version of the story until finally Levine reveals the origin of the Titanium Mike myth, and it is so much more and less than what the story has grown to be. It’s a wonderful little story, something I could easily imagine Mike Resnick having written (this is praise, thank you).

But my favorite Nebula Nominated Short Story, and the one I hope picks up a win is Jennifer Pelland’s “Captive Girl”. This is a heartbreaking vision of the future where out planetary defenses are manned by three women who have been physically stripped of much of their humanity in order to protect Earth. “Captive Girl” is a love story between one of the three women and one of her caretakers, but it is a painful one. It is a beautiful one. “Captive Girl” was the one story which really moved me in an authentic way. It is a brutal, tough story, but one which also made me want to find more from Pelland and look forward with eagerness to her first short story collection Unwelcome Bodies. This is the story I want to see win the Nebula for Best Short Story.

Outside of my desire to see Jennifer Pelland’s story win, I have no sense on how the Nebula voters might go here. I haven’t been following the Nebulas over a period of years and so have no feel for that sort of thing.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for your kind words on my story. If only you were a Nebula voter!