For starters, the nominees for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards have been announced as well and some very fine works they are, too, including an anthology we featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year.
Meanwhile, further reactions to the 2016 Nebula Awards are slowly trickling in. The G. responds to my reaction post from yesterday to clarify his tweets about the lack of near future speculation on the Nebula ballot:
@CoraBuhlert …that if SF doesn’t speculate on plausible futures based on current conditions, it loses something important. But…
— The G (@nerds_feather) February 23, 2017
@CoraBuhlert …the stuff that is rigorous in that way isn’t being read anymore.
— The G (@nerds_feather) February 23, 2017
Afterwards, the discussion took a turn towards 2016 works that qualify as plausible near future speculation that weren’t nominated for some reason. Infomocracy by Malka Older is the most obvious contender in the novel category, while Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny and Brushwork by Aliya Whiteley in the novella category would be possible contenders as well. All three are on the Nebula suggested reading list. Other 2016 works along the same line include the novelette Loser by Matthew Hughes (a longshot, because it was published on the author’s website) and the entire short story output of Terraform, which specialises in near future speculation. However, Terraform got off to a bad start with the SFF community, since their launch announcement suggested that they were completely unaware of the existence of a broad range of online markets for short science fiction and they also keep themselves separate from the wider SFF community. I must admit that their “too cool for fandom” attitude put me off at first (and the blog post linked above didn’t help either, since I habitually disagree with that particular critic) and I found their fiction a mixed bag, though they score highly with regard to author diversity and some of their stories like this one are pretty good. However, for some reason I keep forgetting that Terraform exists and I suspect I’m not the only one. At any rate, I only found two Terraform stories on the Nebula suggested reading list.
So in short, near future speculation is out there, even though much of its seems to have moved to short fiction, but for some reason, none of it got nominated for the Nebulas this year in spite of some strong contenders. It might be a fluke, it might be a trend or it might be that the political situation has driven people towards other subgenres that hit less close to home.
In other news, Ryan Britt’s lament that the Nebula Awards totally failed to recognise his two favourite SF novels of 2016, which I linked to yesterday, has caused a lot of eye-rolling all around such as in the comments on this post at File 770. John Sclazi also issued a reminder that there is no such thing as an automatic awards nomination and that good works are ignored all the time, since there are more possible awards contenders than nominee slots for every award out there. What is more, tastes differ and what I consider one of the best works of the year is not necessarily what the next person considers one of the best.
Meanwhile at Inverse, Ryan Britt shoots back and declares that the Nebulas and all of the other genre awards are bullshit anyway. The Nebulas, Hugos and other genre awards are too much of an insider thing and don’t carry a whole lot of weight outside SFF publishing (that must be why publishers regularly emblazon “Winner of the Hugo or Nebula Award” on the cover of the respective books), they are useless as a guide to newcomers to the genre regarding what to read (even though countless of new fans have used them exactly for that purpose), they often ignore SFF works that aren’t published in traditional SFF venues, they ignore near future speculation in favour of space opera and epic fantasy (Didn’t we just have that discussion?) and they ignore popular science fiction novels like The Martian (probably an eligiblity issues due the being originally self-published), Death’s End and Babylon’s Ashes.
In many way, Britt’s post feels like a greatest hits album of genre award criticism. The points he makes are all things we’ve heard dozens of times before, both from the puppies and from awards critics at the anti-nostalgic end of the spectrum. Not that there isn’t a kernel of truth to some of those arguments, i.e. the Nebulas and the Hugos really aren’t all that great at recognising SFF works not published by traditional SFF imprints, unlike the Clarke Award, though they occasionally do so, e.g. with The Yiddish Policemen‘s Union by Michael Chabon, which was nominated for the Pulitzer and Edgar Award and won both the Hugo and Nebula.
The argument that most genre awards are too insider focussed also contains a kernel of truth, for this year, it is notable that several nominees in the short fiction categories require a certain amount of genre knowledge, and are aimed at insiders, e.g. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe and The Ballad of Black Tom probably won’t make much sense, if you’re not familiar with Lovecraft. And indeed, my Mom remarked, when I told her about the Nebula Award nominees, that there seemed to be a lot of stories this year that were references to/retellings of previous works and that she prefers stories which can stand on their own and don’t refer back to other stories. And my Mom is a member of WorldCon 75 and therefore a 2017 Hugo nominator and voter, so it will be interesting to see how she reacts to e.g. Every Heart a Doorway or The Ballad of Black Tom, should they show up on the Hugo ballot.
But while some of Ryan Britt’s points are valid individually, taken together they don’t make a whole lot of sense. At any rate, I have zero idea where Ryan Britt is coming from. On the one hand, he laments that literary science fiction like Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story or The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus were ignored by the Nebulas, on the other hand, he complains that the Nebulas fail to recognise fairly commercial core genre works like The Martian, Death’s End or Babylon’s Ashes. Of course, it’s entirely possible that someone might enjoy all of those books, but finding all of them on the same nomination ballot would be rather unlikely. And I also have no idea what Ryan Britt even wants beyond seeing his personal favourites on the Hugo or Nebula ballot. And that’s something everybody wants to some degree.
Meanwhile, from the puppies we hear… resounding silence, while they twist themselves into increasingly complicated pretzel shapes to defend Milo Yiannopoulos. Strange, it’s almost as if they never cared about SFF at all.
Comments are still off – safer with this sort of topic.