Some Comments on the 2017 Nebula Awards Winners

So the 2017 Nebula Awards were awarded last night, as was the Palme d’Or (winner: Shoplifters by Hirokazu Kone-eda), the DFB cup (winner: Eintracht Frankfurt), the FA cup (winner: Chelsea). Oh yes, and there was a wedding in Britain, too.

I actually watched the Nebulas via the livestream this time (and for the record, I did not watch the royal wedding live – the snippets in the news were completely sufficient for me). I often have a podcast running in the background when I’m writing and last night, I simply left the Nebula ceremony running instead. Though when I tuned in, while the livestream was already in progress, I initially was confused, because instead of an awards ceremony, there was a bar diagram on the screen, breaking down genre fiction sales, while a voice detailed the market share of indie writers in the various SFF subgenres. For a second, I thought that I’d accidentally clicked on some indie publishing podcast, but no, I really had tuned into the Nebula ceremony, which apparently began with a presentation by Data Guy of Author Earnings Report fame.

After Data Guy had finished his report – which wasn’t all that surprising to those of us who’ve been hanging around indie publishing blogs and fora – a gentleman appeared on stage who turned out to be a puppeteer for the Jim Henson Company and one of the two people who play Mr. Snuffleuppagus. He briefly morphed into Snuffleuppagus mode – and I immediately recognised his voice and mannerisms, even though I haven’t actually watched US Sesame Street in ages and didn’t even know that Snuffleuppagus isn’t imaginary anymore – and also brought along two other Muppets. He was a great host BTW. All the awards should be presented by Muppets. At one point, a Muppet even cuddled with Patrick Rothfuss.

But now let’s get on to the winners. The full list is here, though they missed the Service to SFWA Award and this File 770 post also has some pictures of the ceremony. For my comments on the finalists, see this post.

The winner in the best novel category is The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin, who now has a Nebula to keep her two Hugos company. Now I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Broken Earth trilogy, though it is a highly deserved win for the concluding novel in a trilogy that will be remembered for a long time. It’s also interesting that The Stone Sky and Six Wakes were the only two Nebula finalists this year that are also on the Hugo shortlist. Normally, there is a lot more overlap.

The winner in the best novella category is – unsurprisingly – All Systems Red by Martha Wells. It’s a great choice, because it’s a lovely story and Murderbot’s voice is a delight. BTW, the sequel Artificial Condition just came out. Currently, All Systems Red is duking it out for the number one spot on my Hugo ballot with River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey, which just happens to hit a lot of my sweet spots.

The winner in the best novella category is “A Human Stain” by Kelly Robson. I’ve all enjoyed all of Kelly Robson’s stories I’ve read so far, though I have to admit that I preferred Kelly Robson’t other 2017 story “We Who Live in the Heart” to “A Human Stain”. Though I find it interesting that what is basically a horror novelette won, since horror doesn’t normally do all that well at the Hugos and Nebulas.

The winner in the best short story category is “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience(TM)” by Rebecca Roanhorse, a story that’s also on this year’s Hugo shortlist. It’s a fine story (and also one that borders on horror, interestingly) and a highly deserving winner. Coincidentally, I also think that this is the first time a Native American writer has won the Nebula, at least to my knowledge.

The Andre Norton Award for Best YA Novel went to Sam J. Miller for The Art of Starving. Now I like Sam J. Miller’s writing a whole lot and have been nominating stories of his for the Hugos several times now. However, I have to admit that I don’t love The Art of Starving, which is also on the ballot for the new YA not-a-Hugo, as much as the rest of his work. The central gay love story between two teens, one Muslim and one Jewish, is lovely, but I didn’t much care for the anorexia angle. It’s not a trigger for me – thankfully, I don’t have any eating disorders – it’s just a subject I don’t like reading about. The Art of Starving is also fairly light on the SFF content. Much of it reads like an updated and much better written version of the problem novels that were all the rage when I was the YA reading age and I never much cared about those.

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, finally, went to Jordan Peele for Get Out! Now Get Out! is clearly one of the big surprise hits of 2017 and the first horror film to be nominated for the Best Motion Picture Oscar in more than forty years. Jordan Peele also took home a highly deserved Best Original Screenplay Oscar and might well win a Hugo, too. However, I find that I don’t love the film as much as many others obviously do. I think it’s partly because suburban horror is a very American subgenre – and many Non-Americans have been puzzled by the fact that many Americans obviously enjoy living in places that look like horror film settings for a long time now. And yes, we have suburbs, too, but ours are not quite as freakily homogenous as the American ones tend to be.

Rounding out the evening were a highly deserved SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master Award for Peter S. Beagle, a Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award each for Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams and the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award for Bud Sparhawk.

So let’s take a look at the winner demographics. Once again, the four adult fiction categories all went to women, two of them women of colour, for what I think is the third year in a row. However, lest the usual suspect worry that men are somehow being shut out of science fiction and fantasy, the winners of the Andre Norton Award and the Ray Bradbury Award this year were both men, Sam J. Miller and Jordan Peele respectively. However, Jordan Peele is not white and Sam J. Miller is not straight, so I fear the usual suspects won’t be placated either. Diversity count (leaving the special awards out for now): Three men, three women, three writers of colour, two LGBT writers.

All in all, this is a strong selection of Nebula winners, even if not every winner would have been my first choice. And with two blatant horror works, Get Out! and “A Human Stain”, as well as the borderline horror story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)” winning, this is also a surprisingly strong year for horror at the Nebulas. Meanwhile, Murderbot and “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)” are holding up the flag for science fiction – everything else is fantasy to varying degrees.

Comments are off – I seem to have attracted some unwelcome attention in the past few days.

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