Some Thoughts on the 2021 Nebula Award Winners – and Two SFWA Uproars

Yes, the much delayed Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode reviews are coming and there will be more Masters of the Universe action figure photo stories as well, simply because I enjoy doing them.

However, for today I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled programming for another popular feature on this blog, namely awards commentary. For the winners of the 2021 Nebula Awards were announced last night. The full list of winners may be seen here. For my comments on the finalists, see here.

SFWA has also been beset with two very different problems during the annual Nebula Conference, which was virtual again this year. The first and IMO more serious problem is that someone scraped the private SFWA members directory and published all personal information contained therein online. This is a bad enough in itself and made worse by the fact that we know that there are multiple groups of trolls and bad actors out there who’s sole purpose in life seems to be harassing SFF authors and critics. And the SFWA doxxing has just given those trolls and bad actors more information about existing victims as well as access to other potential victims. In short, this has the potential to be very bad indeed and I am surprised that there is so little discussion about it, most likely because it was drowned out by the Nebula ceremony which started almost immediately afterwards.

So let’s take a look at the 2021 Nebula winners:

The 2021 Nebula Award for Best Novel goes to A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark. IMO, this is a very good choice, but then the 2021 Nebula ballot for Best Novel was very strong in general and I would have been okay with any of the finslists winning.

The winner of the 2021 Nebula Award for Best Novella is And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed. I haven’t read this novella, so I can’t really comment on it, though I am happy for both Premee Mohamed, an author who does good work but is usually overlooked by the various genre awards, as well as for the small press Neon Hemlock, which again does good work, but cannot compete with the marketing budget of Tor.com.

The 2021 Nebula Award for Best Novelette goes to “O2 Arena” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. This is a win which makes me very happy, because not only is it a good story, but it’s also (to my knowledge, at least) the first Nebula win for an author who lives and was born in Africa. Coincidentally, it is also the first Nebula win for Galaxy’s Edge magazine, which normally doesn’t get a whole lot of awards love.

The winner of the 2021 Nebula Award for Best Short Story is “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker. Again, this is a wonderful story and a great choice.

The people who are permanently worried about male authors being excluded from the mayor SFF awards, because we have had a few years of more women than men winning and even entire years of only women winning, should be relieved now, because of the four main fiction categories at the Nebula, two were won by male authors. Alas, both P. Djèlí Clark and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki are black, so I suspect that usual suspects will continue to complain.

The 2021 Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and YA Fiction goes to A Snake Falls To Earth by Darcie Little Badger. I haven’t read this book yet, but I enjoyed last year’s Nebula and Lodestar finalist Elatsoe a whole lot, so I’m glad to see Darcie Little Badger recognised.

The winner of the Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation is WandaVision. Now WandaVision was the most positive surprise of last year’s crop of Disney+ Marvel shows for me, because I expected very little of it and ended up enjoying it a whole lot. Not to mention that it gave a lot of screentime and characterisation to underused characters like Wanda and Vision, introduced a memorable villain in Agatha “All Along” Harkness and managed to pull off its bonkers “sitcom parody cum Philip K. Dickian reality slip” premise, too. So I’m happy that WandaVision was recognised by the Nebulas, especially since the Emmys snubbed the show by putting it not in the sitcom category, where it belonged, but in the mini-series and TV-movie category, where it was squashed by very serious dramas (TM) about very serious issues.

There are some complaints from the usual suspects on the left that SFWA members should not have voted for a Disney-produced movie or TV-show, considering Disney’s continuing failure to pay writers contractually agreed royalties. However, the writers of WandaVision are not to blame for Disney’s crappy behaviour and may well be affected themselves. Never mind that four of seven finalists in this category were Disney productions. And the three non-Disney finalists, The Green Knight, Space Sweepers and What We Do In the Shadows are probably a bit too niche to win. Not that we shouldn’t talk abut Disney’s dominance in the world of SFF TV and movies. However, while Disney has more money and marketing dollars than God (all the more reason to finally pay writers what they’re due), they also put out a lot of good work. Okay, so I personally have zero interest in Encanto, but it’s far from an unworthy finalist. And WandaVision, Loki and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were all very good and entertaining entries in the Marvel canon.

The 2021 Nebula Award for Game Writing goes to Thirsty Sword Lesbians. Now I’m not a gamer and know nothing about the finalists in this category, but Thirsty Sword Lesbians is an awesome title and deserving of a Nebula for that alone.

Several special awards were also given alongside the Nebula. The winners of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award are Arley Sorg, Troy L. Wiggins and (posthumously) Petra Mayer. All three are excellent choice who have done a lot for the genre. I’m particularly happy to see NPR reviewer and critic Petra Mayer honoured, since she left us far too early. The Kevin I’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award goes to Colin Coyle, whom I’m not familiar with.

Finally, the winner of the 38th Damon Knight Grand Master Award is Mercedes Lackey. I thought this was a good decision, when it was announced earlier this year, because Mercedes Lackey is one of those authors who – inspite of a lengthy and very successful career – has been mostly overlooked by the major SFF Awards, probably because her career started at a time when there was still a massive bias against fantasy among the Hugo and Nebula electorate. Besides, Mercedes Lackey had LGBTQ people and diverse characters in general in the 1980s, when this was far from common, so she is a highly deserving winner.

But then today, this happened. Personally, I think that part of the blame here lies with the moderator who should have corrected Lackey’s use of an outdated term now considered offensive. And if the moderator had intervened and Lackey had apologised, I suspect that would have been the end of it.

Apparently, Mercedes Lackey’s husband Larry Dixon was removed from the Nebula Conference as well, according to this Twitter thread here, which makes me wonder whether there isn’t more going on here than just a single slip of the tongue.

Anyway, this is a fine crop of Nebula winners and there’s not a single choice I’m dissatisfied with. Let’s hope that the winners and their celebration are not overshadowed by the twin uproars.

ETA: In a development that sadly doesn’t come as a surprise, Jen Brown, the panelist who called out Mercedes Lackey over the use of an outdated term now deemed offensive, is now being subjected to racist harassment. Just for once, can people maybe not do this?

ETA 2: Mercedes Lackey has now apologised.

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3 Responses to Some Thoughts on the 2021 Nebula Award Winners – and Two SFWA Uproars

  1. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 5/22/22 With A Capital ‘T’ And That Rhymes With ‘P’ And That Stands For Pixel | File 770

  2. Lurkertype says:

    If Lackey had had the wit to say “the term used back then”, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

    I am willing to cut the moderator some slack; their brain probably froze up.

    • Cora says:

      Yes, it’s quite possible that the moderator’s brain did freeze up at that moment.

      Anyway, I’m glad that Lackey apologised, though I wish it would have happened sooner.

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