The nominees for the 2013 Nebula Awards have been announced. Once again, it looks like a good and pleasantly diverse shortlist with lots of women and writers of colour included. But then, the Nebulas have generally been better with regards to diversity than the Hugos.
The best novel slate looks very good. Not a lot of surprises here, since all of the novels have gotten a lot of positive buzz. I’m happy to see Sofia Samatar, Ann Leckie, Nicola Griffith and Helene Wecker nominated. The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata is something of a surprise, since it was self-published, which makes this the first self-published novel ever to be nominated for a Nebula Award. But at least for me, the real only WTH? nomination in the novel category is Charles E. Gannon’s Fire with Fire, since I’ve never heard of either the book or the author. Or at least, neither ever pinged on my radar, though I may have just overlooked the book, since Baen covers tend to look all the same – unless they are eye-searingly awful, that is.
The shortlist for the Andre Norton Award looks pretty good as well and – most importantly – several of the nominated books are the sort of books that actual young adults are reading rather than the sort of books adults wish they were reading. This is a big change from previous years where we have frequently seen YA novels nominated for genre awards that appealed far more to adult readers than to the actual target demographic. The only two “Huh?” nominees in this category are A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, an author I completely managed to miss in spite of a lengthy backlist, and September Girls by Bennett Madison, a mermaid novel narrated from the POV of a teenage boy, which should be a refreshing change, if nothing else. Some of the reviews complain about sexist language. I can’t comment on that point, because I haven’t read the book. But given the narrator is a teenage boy, the language used might be a case of too much realism for comfort. At any rate, people who don’t work with teens every day are frequently shocked, when I talk about my students and the things they do and say.
The short fiction categories look pretty good as well and include several stories, which are also on my personal list (since I have Hugo nominating rights, I have made an effort to read more current short fiction). Again, I’m happy to see “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar nominated. Ditto for “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard, “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” by Ken Liu and “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages.
The only category which leaves me baffled is “Best dramatic presentation”, since I agree with hardly any of the nominees. But then I have seen neither Her nor Europa Report, though I’ve heard good things about both films. In fact, I’m not even sure if they have been released in Germany at all. Upon checking it turns out neither film has had a theatrical release in Germany yet. Europa Report went straight to DVD and Her isn’t coming out until March. Though we did get Only Lovers Left Alive, which the US is still waiting for. I found Gravity rather dull in the way that serious and worthy science fiction films a la 2001 tend to be dull. The Hunger Games films are okay, but not really outstanding, though my issues with the films are probably due to the fact that Jennifer Lawrence just rubs me the wrong way for some reason. Pacific Rim is good fun, though not exactly deep. Doctor Who is – well – Doctor Who and besides, I did like The Day of the Doctor, though I’m largely over Doctor Who otherwise. Still hardly any overlap with my personal list.
Finally, here is a good post by Polenth Blake about the hidden costs of nominating for the major genre awards. There are some very good points here, since getting hold of the latest releases can cost quite a bit of money, particularly if novels aren’t yet available in paperback or an affordable e-book edition.
Availability can be an even bigger issue, since in some parts of the world it’s not possible to legally acquire many works at all. For example, unless I subscribe, I cannot acquire Analog or Asimov’s here in Germany, since no store carries them, not even the big newsstand at the train station. This means I won’t be nominating any stories from either magazine, unless I have read them on the author’s site or in e-book form somewhere. Films and TV shows often don’t come out in a timely manner overseas, if at all, hence the fact that I still haven’t seen either Her or Europa Report. And if I’d waited for German TV, I still wouldn’t have seen season 3 of Game of Thrones (I think it starts this weekend, almost a year after the US run) and I wouldn’t have seen The Day of the Doctor at all, since Doctor Who is not shown on German free TV, only on a subscription cable channel.