Some Thoughts on the 2023 Nebula Award Winners – and Hamburg Traffic Hell

The winners of the 2023 Nebula Awards were announced this morning at 5 AM my time, which is why I did not follow them live. Normally, I would have already posted my Nebula winner commentary post by now. But I had an appointment north of Hamburg this afternoon, which normally means a one and a half to two hour drive, i.e. I expected to be back by six PM.

However, it turned out that Autobahn A7, one of the main North-South routes for Germany and all of Europe was closed today because a highway bridge in Hamburg was being demolished. Unfortunately, this closure also affected the Elbtunnel, which is the best and fastest way to get to the other side of the river Elbe (and my appointment was north of Hamburg, i.e. on the other side). I heard about the closure, but didn’t cancel the appointment, because it was Sunday, so traffic wouldn’t be too bad and besides, I could still take Autobahn A1 and/or make my way to through the city of Hamburg via the Elbe bridges. I also left half an hour early, so everything should have been fine.

However, what I did not know until I was already on the way is that Hamburg also hosted a biker meeting and religious service today, which meant that the city was full of bikers. Even worse, there was also a massive bicycle protest as well as the women’s run street race, which meant that much of the inner city and several of the bridges were closed down for those events – on a weekend where the Elbtunnel was also closed, which is fucking terrible planning. Oh yes, and there was a European parliament and local council election, too.

As a result, there was a twenty kilometer traffic jam on Autobahn A1, the alternate route past the city. The Elbe ferry from Glücksstadt to Wischhafen, which many people use as a way to bypass Hamburg (not suitable for my route and besides, I hate ferries) had a four hour waiting time. I eventually got fed up with the traffic jam on the A1 and left the Autobahn, but because half the city was shut down for the various events, traffic was hell everywhere. It took me two and half hours to make my way through Hamburg, while my GPS kept trying to redirect me to the closed A7 and the Elbtunnel. It also doesn’t help that I don’t know my way around Hamburg all that well – unlike Dad who commuted from Bremen to Hamburg for almost twenty years and knew every obscure shortcut. Though Dad hated driving through Hamburg or at least driving to anywhere on the far side of the Elbe, because the traffic was often so terrible. Once, he even paid for a pricier plane ticket, so I could fly from Bremen rather than Hamburg, because he didn’t want to take me to Hamburg airport (which is on the far side of the Elbe and which I actually passed today).

BTW, I crossed the Elbe at the so-called Neue Elbbrücke (New Elbe Bridge), which isn’t actually new, but was built in 1887, though the turrets which made the bridge special were removed in 1959 in a postwar urban planning crime against architecture.  Here is a before and after photo of this architectural crime.

Unsurprisingly, I was late for my appointment and then I still had a long way back ahead of me. This time, I didn’t drive through Hamburg again – which was still full of bicycles, motorbikes and running women – but made my way through the sleepy commuter towns and villages north of Hamburg back to Autobahn A1, where the monster traffic jam had mostly dissipated by that time.

Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of explaining why the Nebula commentary post is later than usual. But back to the main event, that is the 2023 Nebula Award winners. The full list of winners may be found here and my commentary on the 2023 Nebula finalists may be found here.

So let’s take a look at the 2023 Nebula winners:

The 2023 Nebula Award for Best Novel goes to The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera. I have to admit that this was my least favourite novel on the Nebula ballot and that it doesn’t work for me. Some of the author’s comments on social media also don’t make my inclined to voter for him. Still, others clearly feel differently. And at the very least, this win will pacify the usual suspects who complain that men cannot win Hugos and Nebulas anymore. Okay, who am I kidding here? It obviously won’t pacify them, because the winner is a man of colour from Sri Lanka and for the usual suspects, only white American men count.

The winner of the 2023 Nebula Award for Best Novella is “Linghun” by Ai Jiang. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m very happy for Ai Jiang who only burst onto the scene in the past two years and has already made a big impression.

The 2023 Nebula Award for Best Novelette goes to “The Year Without Sunshine“ by Naomi Kritzer. I enjoyed this novelette and Naomi Kritzer’s work in general a lot, so I’m happy that it won.

The winner of the 2023 Nebula Award for Best Short Story is “Tantie Merle and the Farmhand 4200“ by R.S.A Garcia. I enjoyed this story quite a bit, when I read it last summer, and it was on my personal Hugo longlist, though in the end it didn’t make my ballot. Nonetheless, I’m glad that it won.

The 2023 Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and YA Fiction goes to To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose. This is another book I haven’t read yet, even though it’s also a Hugo finalist, because I usually leave the Lodestar finalists for last. However, it did get a lot of buzz last year.

It’s also notable that three of the four winners in the fiction categories are writers of colour, two of them international writers. What is more, three of the four winners in the fiction categories (plus three of the four recipients of the special and lifetime achievement awards) are women. Do I hear the heads of the usual suspects exploding?

The winner of the 2023 Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation is Barbie. Now I have to admit that this win surprised me a little. Not because Barbie isn’t a good movie – it is – and besides, it was the highest grossing film of 2023. However, the ballot for the Ray Bradbury Award was very strong this year and personally, I thought that either the amazing The Last of Us episode “Long, Long Time” or Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, which is shaping up to be a dark horse favourite for this year’s SFF awards, would win.

The 2023 Nebula Award for Game Writing goes to Baldur’s Gate 3. Once again, I can’t say much about this category, since I’m not a gamer. But Baldur’s Gate 3 is a huge and popular game in a huge and popular franchise, so popular that even I had heard about it, before it was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula.

Several special and lifetime achievement awards were awarded along with the Nebulas as well.

The recipient of the 2024 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award is Susan Cooper. Now I have to admit that I have never read her famous The Dark Is Rising YA fantasy quartet nor anything else by her. The reason is that children’s and YA books were extremely regional before the 1990s and so I never read many English language children’s and YA classics, because they simply weren’t available in (West) Germany. The intense prejudice against fantasy fiction for children and teenagers in 1980s (West) Germany didn’t help either. But even though I’ve never read anything by Susan Cooper, I have no doubt that she is a most worthy Grand Master.

The Infinity Award, basically a posthumous Grand Master Award for authors who did not receive a Grand Master during their lifetimes, mostly because they died too young, was awarded for the second time this year and the recipient is Tanith Lee. Now Tanith Lee won plenty of awards during her lifetime, including a Stoker and World Fantasy lifetime achievement award, but nonetheless this win made me very happy, because publishing didn’t treat Tanith Lee very well in the last twenty years of her life, because her work was simply a little too weird and too queer for an industry which increasingly demanded that writers write the same kind of book over and over again, preferably in a long series. What is more, I wrote a profile of Tanith Lee for an upcoming issue of New Edge Sword and Sorcery, so the Infinity Award win was a nice note to end on.

The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award goes to game designer Jennell Jaquays this year, also posthumously, because Jennell Jaquays died in January, much too early. Not only is this award highly deserved, but it also demonstrates that game writing is now an integral part of SFWA.

Finally, the recipient of the 2024 Kevin O’Donnell Jr Service to SFWA Award is James Hosek. This is another posthumous award, because James Hosek died in December 2023.  I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with his work and had to look him up. Turns out that he’s better known as a mystery writer, though he also wrote science fiction and – more importantly – was SFWA’s Nebula Awards commissioner. Here’s a nice tribute on the SFWA website.

All in all, this is another good year for the Nebulas and associated awards. There’s only one winner I don’t care for and plenty of other people obviously felt differently.

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9 Responses to Some Thoughts on the 2023 Nebula Award Winners – and Hamburg Traffic Hell

  1. Estara Swanberg says:

    If you’d like to read the one book of hers that actually got translated (and introduced me to reading in English, because none of the other books in the sequence got translated and I wanted to read it all) is Wintersonnenwende =>

    Annemarie Böll is the translator, I thought it was incredibly atmospheric. I still like the sequence except for one aspect of Will Stanton’s eventual fate (he is one of a number of young people who is at the center of the story).

    • Cora says:

      Cool. I had no idea that any of Susan Cooper’s books had been translated (and by Annemarie Böll no less). But then, you also wouldn’t know about a book, unless you found it in your local library or bookshop or someone gave you a copy. And this isn’t a book my parents or relatives were likely to buy.

      And yes, I’m aware that my lack of knowledge of many US and UK children’s classics is a blind spot for me, but I’m also not sure if going back and reading those books now would work, because I’ve long aged out of the target audience.

  2. Lurkertype says:

    I read at least one of Cooper’s books sometime in the last 5 years and it still held up.

    I was going to ask “bikers? bicycles or motorcycles?” but you answered that. Both. What fresh hell is this? describes the whole trip.

    PS I think your sidebar can do without the tsu and G+ links. I miss G+

    • Cora says:

      Yes, I should probably give Susan Cooper a try.

      Yes, it was motorbikes, bicycles and running women on what was known to be a heavy traffic weekend, which is flat-out terrible planning. I suspect they picked this weekend, because the European Football Cup starts next week and there are matches in Hamburg (which is the reason we picked this weekend, because we suspected that a football match between Poland and some other country would cause chaos next weekened). It’s still shitty planning. Also, if you don’t want cars in your city, make sure that they can easily drive around it.

      Yes, I need to overhaul the sidebar, since many links are outdated.

  3. Fraser says:

    Glad to hear about Cooper and Lee. Both well-deserved.
    Sorry to hear about the traffic hell. It sounds familiar from years working on the coast of Florida on a barrier island (before moving up to North Carolina)

    • Cora says:

      The traffic will apparently get even worse this weekend, because the Elbtunnel is still closed (or closed again), since they didn’t finish repairs last weekend. Amd on Sunday, there is a Euro 2024 match between Poland and the Netherlands, both neighbouring countries in driving distances, with roughly 50000 fans expected to flock to Hamburg on top of everything else. In fact, this also explains why there were so many Dutch vehicles, often camper vans, on the road last weekend, even though the Dutch don’t have school holidays yet. But I guess some people headed for the Euro 2024 a week early.

  4. Sarah Elkins says:

    I’m always glad to see people remembering Tanith Lee. I have a number of her books. The latest is the 2013 collection *space is just a starry night* and it had several good stories, glad I bought and read it.

    • Sarah Elkins says:

      I mean, the latest *I have* is the 2013 collection *space is just a starry night*

    • Cora says:

      Tanith Lee wasn’t treated well by the publishing industry, when they dropped her like a hot potato, because her work was just a little too strange and didn’t easily fit into neat little boxes. So I’m always glad to see her remembered.

      A profile of Tanith Lee written by me will appear in an upcoming issue of New Edge Sword and Sorcery and the Infinity Award was a nice note to end on.

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