Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thoughts on Nebula Nominees 2009: Short Stories

The Button Bin” - Mike Allen (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, Oct07)
“The Dreaming Wind” - Jeffrey Ford (The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Ed., Viking, Jul07)
Trophy Wives” - Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Fellowship Fantastic, ed. Greenberg and Hughes, Daw Jan08)
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” - Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, Jul08)
The Tomb Wife” - Gwyneth Jones (F&SF, Aug07)
Don’t Stop” - James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, Jun07)
"Mars: A Traveler's Guide" - Ruth Nestvold (F&SF, Jan08)

The short story category here is a solid lineup of stories with only one which disappointed, that being “The Tomb Wife” from Gwyneth Jones. I’m not quite sure what to say about that story, except that it failed to work for me. There is a certain amount of humor in the interplay between the alien and the humans, and the conclusion is sad, but “The Tomb Wife” did not offer anything to me as a reader. I just don’t have much at all to say about it, which is why it gets first mention in this post as the story I enjoyed the least.

Next up is “Don’t Stop” from James Patrick Kelly. “Don’t Stop” is a ghost story with running, or perhaps a running story with ghosts. I’m not sure which. It’s a perfectly serviceable story. The ending doesn’t quite deliver for me, and there isn’t quite enough in the guts of the story to really recognize it as one of the year’s best, but it’s not bad. I do appreciate any story that touches running in an honest and realistic manner, and “Don’t Stop” certainly does that. Had this been a badminton story with ghosts I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much. Scratch that. I would very much like to read a badminton story with ghosts. The point is, beyond the depiction of a runner / running, I wasn’t totally sold on the premise. (my review)

It’s been a year since I’ve read “The Dreaming Wind”, so my memories may be a touch hazy, but I remember this being a good story. This came as something of a surprise to me because I generally have difficulty with Jeffrey Ford’s I can see why others appreciate and enjoy his work. For whatever reason, his stuff doesn’t connect with me. There are exceptions to this, of course (“The Way He Does It”, for example). “The Dreaming Wind” is somewhere in the middle between how much I enjoyed “The Way He Does It” and the utter disappointment I felt about “Botch Town”. “The Dreaming Wind” is a phenomenon which sweeps through a town once a year and causes all sorts of weirdness to occur, some of it uncomfortable. One year the wind does not come and the residents are left waiting for the wind. It’s a more satisfying story than I generally expect from Ford.

“Trophy Wives”, from Nina Kiriki Hoffman, is a story of two women rescuing another, but doing so in a manner that takes the titular concept of trophy wives and turns it so that being a trophy wife can be considered an opportunity besides the captivity of being a trophy wife. It's an interesting story of the nature of freedom (in this setting) and how it both does and does not exist in a conventional manner but truly exists when one chooses it. That's how I read the story. I was mostly into it, by the end. I liked the storyoverall, but now it's been about a week since I read the story and I'm less enamored by it than I was then. Each passing day drops it a little bit in my estimation and I can't say exactly why.

What I like about “The Button Bin” is the inherent nastiness to the story. It's the stuff beyond the initial confrontation between you and Lenahan. Mike Allen makes this one dark and he succeeds. I'm seldom excited about second person perspective stories but this one works. (my review)

I was so enamored by the ending and overall revelation as to what the true story of “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide” that I bumped Ruth Nestvold’s story well up on my faux-voting list to the second slot. This starts out kind of dull as it reads like a regular travel guide, but patience is rewarded when we notice what topics are being chosen and why. Then it gets really good. (my review)

If I had an actual vote for the Nebula, which I sadly do not, my vote would go to Kij Johnson’s delightful story “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss”. Touching on loss, magic, monkeys, and healing, Kij Johnson tells a story that sticks in the reader’s imagination without really answering some of the questions raised by the story. The answers don’t matter. It doesn’t matter exactly how the monkeys do what they do, or why. By the end we can guess where they go. That aspect was subtly handled. I don’t know if “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” will win the Nebula, but I certainly think it should. I’m glad that the nomination (and the Hugo nomination!) is bringing greater recognition to this story. (my review)

So, that's that. I still can't find a link to "The Dreaming Wind", but everything else is linked up. Go read some short stories and come back to tell me why I'm wrong.


Anonymous said...

"The Dreaming Wind" is available through Jeffrey Ford or through me-our email addresses are on the the Nebula award site.

Joe said...

Thanks, Ellen. That's good news.