Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thoughts on the Nebula Award Nominees: Novelettes

‘‘Paranormal Romance,’’ Christopher Barzak (Lightspeed 6/13)
‘‘The Waiting Stars,’’ Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky)
‘‘They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass,’’ Alaya Dawn Johnson (Asimov’s 1/13)
‘‘Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters,’’ Henry Lien (Asimov’s 12/13)
‘‘The Litigation Master and the Monkey King,’’ Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/13)
‘‘In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,’’ Sarah Pinsker (Strange Horizons 7/1 – 7/8/13)

Today I continue my coverage of the Nebula Awards with my second post, this time doing a wrap-up of the Novelette category. As with the short stories, I was able to read all of the nominees this year, which makes writing and thinking about the category much easier.  I will talk a little bit about each one in reverse order of how I felt about the stories, with links to anything I previously wrote about them. 

"Paranormal Romance" (my review): I mentioned in my review of "Paranormal Romance" that I would like to read more stories dealing with Sheila and Corinne, and that remains true today. There is nothing wrong with this story, but it just doesn't feel as strong or as immediately important as the other stories. That's not a flaw, but in evaluating for an award, it isn't enough.

"The Waiting Stars" (my review): This is where things begin to get difficult for me. I'm a fan of what Aliette de Bodard writes and she seldom disappoints, nor did she here. I very much like this sort of fiction, and I could flip this with the next story very easily, but today, this is where I would place it if I had a Nebula ballot. It's very good, though, so please don't assume placement is indicative of quality. The bar is raised here.

"They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass" (my review): If there is any chance that Johnson is going to write more "glassman" novels, please sign me up to be one of the first readers to get a copy. There is so much room here for additional stories and she hooked me fairly early in wanting more and wanting to know more.

"In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind" (my review): I'll quote myself: "This is a moving, emotional story.  It is beautiful, and at touches, heartbreaking.  But the heartbreak here is not the raw heartbreak of some of the nominated short stories, but more that of a long life well lived that is very much in its last moments, whether those moments are days or years.  The heartbreak is also in the loss of an ambition and the cause for it.  It hints at some of the American mythology and legends that we don't really believe, though we tell ourselves, "maybe.""

"Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters" (my review): Ask me tomorrow, and this may be my choice for the best story on the Novelette slate. Also, as much as I want that Alaya Dawn Johnson novel that probably isn't going to happen, I really, really want the subsequent Pearl novel that Henry Lien is currently shopping out. I am told that the tone will be different, but it'll be a direct sequel. I absolutely cannot wait and I hope it sells fast, for a lot of money, and we get many more.

"The Litigation Master and the Monkey King" (my review): As I mentioned for the Lien story, I could easily flip these two on any given day and feel good about the decision. It's probably best that I'm not a member of SFWA with a vote.  This is the story I read most recently, and I may be struck by the emotions of reading the story, but as with many of Ken Liu's stories, this one is just really damn good. Liu is one of the finest short story writers we have working today and this is another excellent tale.

If I had to guess, and why else am I doing this if not to do exactly that, the award will go to either Ken Liu or Henry Lien. If I had a vote, this list is how I would vote, but I feel fairly good about the relative quality of all of the stories and how I can see SFWA members voting. Sometimes it is tougher, where I just cannot connect to a story that I know a lot of other people will (I feel that way about a number of stories from Charles Stross). Overall, though, this was a solid lineup of stories, and one well worth reading.

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