Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thoughts on the Nebula Award Nominees: Novellas

We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)
The Mothers of Voorhisville,” Mary Rickert (Tor.com 4/30/14)
Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion)
Grand Jeté (The Great Leap),” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)

In a weird turn of events, this is the first year I've finished the reading all of the Nebula Award nominated novellas this far before the awards are to be announced.  Part of the reason for this is that there was just enough time in between the Nebula announcement and when I needed to get in my Hugo nominations that I could quick push through the novellas to consider these novellas for my ballot.

Previously, I would schedule up my Nebula posts to all go up the week leading up to the awards.  This year I'm going to wrap up each category as I finish it.  There will likely be a fairly decent gap between this article and my next Nebula article.

As I have done in the past, my comments on the novellas will be in reverse order of how I would rank them.

Calendrical Regression: Lawrence Schoen has thrice been nominated for a Nebula Award, each one for one his novellas and also in each of the last three years.  Calendrical Regression fits into his buffalito series of stories and I constantly marvel at the concept of a miniature buffalo named Reggie. They are charming and fun and generally funny.  Calendrical Regression is no different, and while I'm always happy to read a buffalito story, I'm not sure I would have nominated it for an award. 

Yesterday's Kin: If we're talking about awards, Nancy Kress has won five Nebula Awards and has been nominated for many more. This is also the last time we're going to talk about the number of previous wins or nominations for the rest of the category. Nobody here has more than Kress. Yesterday's Kin is a story of what happens after the first contact with aliens and also of genetics.  It's fascinating, though as with many of Kress's shorter works, I wanted to dig more into the stuff she built the story on.  I want to get more into the genetics - or less into the genetics and more into the implications of the genetics, to get to different aspects of how this would all play out.  What really happens next.  Yesterday's Kin is complete, but I want more - or different. 

"The Regular": At this point my rankings get a bit murky, as I might flip the next three stories around on any given day.  The distance between them is not great.  Ken Liu is a fantastic storyteller and "The Regular features a detective working a case the police closed without a deeper investigation.  Liu deals with the intersections of race, class, expectation, and melds it together in a wonderful (if occasionally awful, because the details are not always pleasant) stew.

"The Mothers of Voorhisville": What if one man managed to get nearly every woman in a small town pregnant, except that the man might be supernatural in some way and all of the babies aren't exactly normal? As told in an oral history of the event / events.  The result is Mary Rickert's "The Mothers of Voorhisville", a story I couldn't look away from though sometimes I wanted to cover my eyes.  It's not a nasty story in the sense of covering my eyes, but it gets exceedingly uncomfortable.  Well done.

"Grand Jete": It is no secret that I have enjoyed Rachel Swirsky's fiction of the years and "Grand Jete" is as worthy of admiration as so many of her other stories.  It is a story of a dying young girl, a father building a simulacrum of his daughter, and the heaviness of loss, grief, and fear.  It is beautiful, bitter and somewhat sweet.

We Are All Completely Fine: I am constantly surprised by how little Daryl Gregory I have actually read. I read his first novel and somehow managed to not read the rest, but We Are All Completely Fine was so good that I am for sure going to read the novel Harrison Squared, which is something of a prequel to this, a novel set in what seems like an AA group meeting, except that all of the members are survivors of some sort of serial killer level trauma - but there's even more going on with each of their stories than that.  It's fantastic, and I immediately started trying to describe the book to my wife, with little success except to say "This was excellent, you should read it."


Kendall said...

I love Gregory's stuff and it's sad how far behind I am in reading his work, although I own most or all of it (best-laid plans, etc.). I recommend The Devil's Alphabet, in addition to Pandemonium (the other one you read, methinks). If you like audiobooks (of books you've read), I recommend the audiobook of Pandemonium; it was a great way to re-read it and I was surprised how much I'd forgotten since I originally read it.

Joe said...

I really don't have the time for audio. My commute is crazy short. I'm only now diving into ebooks, which can be convenient right now.

Pandemonium is the other one I've read. I really need to read everything else.