Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thoughts on Nebula Nominees 2009: Novelettes

If Angels Fight” - Richard Bowes (F&SF, Feb08)
The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” - James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s, Feb08)
Dark Rooms” - Lisa Goldstein (Asimov’s, Oct/Nov 07)
Pride and Prometheus” - John Kessel (F&SF, Jan08)
“Night Wind” - Mary Rosenblum (Lace and Blade, ed. Deborah J. Ross, Norilana Books, Feb08)
Baby Doll” - Johanna Sinisalo (The SFWA European Hall of Fame, ed. James Morrow & Kathryn Morrow, Tor, Jun07 [trans. from the Finnish by David Hackston])
Kaleidoscope” - K.D. Wentworth (F&SF, May07)

Since I have no intention of attempting to read through the full novel nomination list in the next twelve hours, this will be my last post on the Nebula Nominees. Winners are announced tonight, I believe.

Once again I'll start with the story I did not have the opportunity to read. I was unable to find "Night Wind" online, at my library, or anywhere in a library system in the state of Minnesota. I'm sure it is a delightful story, but I didn't have a chance to read it. If "Night Wind" wins the Nebula I'll try harder to track down the story.

Out of the stories I have read I have to say that "If Angels Fight" is probably the weakest story of the nominees. The story consists of the search for Mark Bannon, a long dead scion of a major political family...a man who the narrator has been able to find over the years, even though Mark really is dead. That would be impossible to explain. My main problem, though, is that every step of the search results in long digressions about that new person meeting Mark. It becomes tedious because there is no core story, just digressions. For me, the digressions don't work.

My thoughts on "Kaleidoscope": "Will “Kaleidoscope” remain this mishmash of different possibilities all converging on Ally? That’s what makes the story interesting and why we keep reading, but is also ultimately why the story is unsatisfying. This is the central conceit of the story, but the lack of a grounding reality means that the longer the story goes on, the less I care about Ally and what is going on because while we root for happiness and a living dog, this may not have been the reality."

My thoughts on "Dark Rooms": "It’s an intellectually and emotionally interesting story that is never overwhelmed by technical details. “Dark Rooms” is about the people. I question whether this is, in fact, a SFF story or whether it should have garnered a SFF nomination, but beyond that – decent story."

My thoughts on "Pride of Prometheus": Kessel’s story is well written and there is a strong aspect of intellectual interest to the chronology of the story and working out the little clues as to what is going on. John Kessel works in the inherent horror of the situation perfectly. The main problem here is simply that because I am not a fan of the original source material, I am not the ideal reader for “Pride and Prometheus”. For me, the story only works on the “hey, Kessel’s doing something kind of cool here” level.

A counterpoint to "Pride and Prometheus" would come from a person who I recommended this story to. She is a fan of Jane Austen's work and is very familiar with the characters / setting. She loved the story. I can only appreciate the story on an intellectual level.

It's almost been too long since I read "The Ray-Gun: A Love Story" to write about it. Here's what I recall: The story delighted me. It's a story that features a ray-gun from outer space (because where else do ray guns come from?), but as much as anything else is about the on-and-off romance between Jack and Kristin and the role of the ray gun in that romance. Yeah, you can get all that from the title. But just imagine that you found a ray gun like this and how it would change your life. James Alan Gardner has written a very good story about a ray gun, but really about people.

My thoughts on "Baby Doll": "Baby Doll" is a stronger story, a more shocking story because of the young age of Annette and her almost-friends. There is a scene late in the story, a boy pressuring a girl for sex. He asks if she is "planning to hold out till you're fourteen or something?" That's the world of "Baby Doll". That's the horrific nature of the story, that such a world could feasibly be only a decade away from now. The scarier thing is that this does not seem as unreasonable as it might have.

If I had a vote I would go either way between "The Ray-Gun" and "Baby Doll", but I think that the horror of "Baby Doll" is so striking that my vote would go to "Baby Doll". It is the most memorable of the nominated novelettes.

Previous Nebula Thoughts
Short Stories

1 comment:

ThRiNiDiR said...

This is awesome Joe, I'll be linking this as soon as I write an announcement of the winners.