Reactions to the 2017 Nebula Award Winners

Last week, I posted my own comments and reactions to the 2017 Nebula Award winners. Now here is a round-up of reactions from around the web. It’s fairly short, because there wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about this year’s Nebula Award winners online beyond broad agreement that they are some very good choices. Okay, so maybe the puppy contingent disagrees, but a cursory scan of some puppy affiliated blogs shows that they do not comment on the Nebulas at all.

At The Verge, Andrew Liptak has a brief reaction post, which is mainly an overview of the winners and the awards ceremony.

At the B&N SciFi and Fantasy Blog, which also reviewed all Nebula finalists in the best novel category, Joel Cunningham is happy about the results in general and particularly pleased that they managed to predict the winner, The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin.

Coincidentally, Joel Cunningham believes that The Stone Sky will also win the Hugo this year. I’m a bit more sceptical, though to be honest, I didn’t expect The Obelisk Gate, book 2 in the Broken Earth trilogy, to win the Hugo last year either. And personally, I feel that the best novel category in 2017 was extremely strong (which is why I was so surprised that The Obelisk Gate won – because the competition was so strong and The Obelisk Gate was hampered by being book 2 in a trilogy). This year, the best novel category at the Hugos is weaker than last year. John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire is fairly weak (I’ll probably write more about what irritated me about the book later) and also very obviously the first installment in a series, complete with an abrupt ending that doesn’t tie up anything. Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 is a love it or hate it book (I’m leaning towards the later), which will hamper its chances. Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty seems to be another love it or hate it book (though I enjoyed it). Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee, which I like very much, is the second book in a trilogy, where the first book didn’t win, and also doesn’t stand alone very well. And while I like Provenance by Ann Leckie a whole lot, it’s also a lighter work than the Imperial Radch trilogy and awards voters tend to go for more serious works. So N.K. Jemisin might well win her third best novel Hugo in a row.

At io9, Julie Muncy focusses largely on the winner of the Ray Bradbury Award for outstanding dramatic presentation, which went to Jordan Peele for Get Out! and thus reinforces his place among the best genre creators working today. I for one am certainly interested in seeing what Jordan Peele does next (a TV adaptation of Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country apparently, which should be interesting).

Rebecca Roanhorse, winner in the best short story category, posts a photo of her Nebula Award on the shelf inbetween books by Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, which is certainly a fitting place.

Meanwhile, SFWA president Cat Rambo offers a report about the entire Nebula Awards Weekend conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which encompasses a lot more than just the Nebulas. Some of those panels sound very interesting. I’ll have to see if they’re online at the SFWA YouTube channel. I’m also happy to see SFWA increasingly embrace indie authors – those that don’t behave like complete and utter jerks, at any rate.

Lela E. Buis, who reviewed the 2017 Nebula Award finalists in the fiction categories on her blog, does not comment on the winners themselves, but does take a look on the shortlist as a whole. She is pleased by the range of subgenres represented, but also worries about the repetition of nominees, repetition of themes, the dominance of certain publishers (mainly Orbit and Tor) and the plight of the poor white straight men who are largely shut out of the shortlist and the winners, all of which she considers symptoms of an inbred and elitist system.

I do agree with her that even though SFWA has been admitting indie authors for a couple of years now, the Nebula shortlists don’t particularly reflect this fact yet, though there was one indie author, Joanthan P. Brazee, nominated for a Nebula this year. What is more, a lot of the “write to market” indies may be financially successful (and SFWA admission requires a certain amount of sales and income, so write to market types may well be overrepresented), but awards electorates look for qualities other than entertaining stories that sell really well. Though I suspect we will be seeing more indie authors on the Nebula shortlist in the future.

As for the repetition of finalists, I already addressed this issue in an earlier post about the 2018 Hugo finalists, though it applies to the Nebulas as well. In short, yes, the same people tend to get nominated for awards over and over again, but this is hardly a new phenomenon. For example, Jack McDevitt used to show up on the Nebula shortlist every other year or so until fairly recently. Besides, the 2017 Nebula shortlist actually had fewer repeat finalists than previous years and several new names. And I don’t think any of the 2017 winners have ever won a Nebula before.

As for certain themes showing up on the Hugo and Nebula shortlists again and again, yes, this is a thing. However, once more this is far from a new phenomenon and indeed one I have observed ever since I started following SFF awards in depth. Certain subjects and themes simply float around the zeitgeist and naturally show up in fiction with increased frequency. For example, in recent years, we have been seeing a cluster of stories and novels written from the POV of artificial intelligences and robots. This is hardly surprising, considering there is also a lot of debate about advances in artificial intelligences and robotics in the real world at the moment. Though it’s interesting that the current gaggle of SF narratives featuring robot and AI POV characters generally portray robots and AIs as likable and well-meaning characters rather than as menaces, which is a striking contrast to the many alarmist news stories about how the robots will take our jobs, usually illustrated with 35 year old clips from Terminator.

A strong theme this year, which Lela E. Buis does not mention, is horror with two blatant and one sort of horror story winning Nebulas and several more making the Nebula and/or Hugo shortlist. We also have perennially popular themes, e.g. the Hugos always have at least one finalist featuring dragons, because a lot of people really, really like dragons. As someone who is not a huge dragon fan, I tend to grumble about “the obligatory dragon book” (which in the past two years was actually a dragon series). Finally, we have seen an uptick in the number of stories with LGBT and particularly trans themes nominated for awards in recent years, but then LGBT stories were relegated to specialist small presses until very recently, so what we’re seeing is not a trend, but the effect of the dam breaking, as LGBT stories finally gain acceptance with the genre mainstream.

As for the plight of the straight white man, for starters several men did win Nebulas and related awards this year. Sam J. Miller and Jordan Peele are both men (though one isn’t straight and the other isn’t white) as is SFWA Grand Master Peter S. Beagle, Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award winner Bud Sparhawk and Solstice Award winner, the late Gardner Dozois who sadly died this evening. And all of these men are white, too. Besides, as I’ve said before, women, people of colour and LGBT people have been underrepresented in the major SFF awards for so long now (though the Nebulas have been a little better about representation than the Hugos) that a few years of mainly women and/or people of colour and/or winning awards only serve to even the score.

Finally, at the Italian site Nuove Vie, Franco Giambalvo has an overview over the 2017 Nebula Award winners, in which I’m quoted. The post is only in Italian, though.

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