The finalists for the 2022 Nebula Awards were announced today. This time, the announcement didn’t happen that close to the Hugo nomination deadline, but then Hugo nominations close more than a month later than usual this year, which gives Hugo nominators enough to time check out worthy works they might have missed.
File 770 also has a handy listing where to find the 2022 Nebula finalists for free online.
So let’s dive right in and take a look at the individual categories:
This category is a mix of the expected and the unexpected.
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree was not only one of my favourite discoveries of 2022, it also gave a boost to the already simmering cozy fantasy trend and I’m really glad to see it nominated. This one is also on my personal Hugo longlist.
Ursula Vernon a.k.a. T. Kingfisher is a long-time Hugo and Nebula favourite, so the nomination for Nettle & Bone is not a huge surprise. And a most worthy finalist it is, too. Nettle & Bone is another book that’s on my personal Hugo longlist.
The Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir is one of the most popular SFF series of recent years. The first book Gideon the Ninth was a Hugo and Nebula finalist, while Harrow the Ninth was a Hugo finalist. Therefore, the Nebula nomination for Nona the Ninth is not all that surprising and I expect to see it on the Hugo ballot as well.
Babel by R.F. Kuang has been showing up year’s best lists all over the place, so it’s no surprise to see it nominated here. I have to admit that I haven’t read Babel, because Kuang’s Poppy War trilogy did not work for me at all. Maybe Babel will be more up my alley.
I also haven’t read Spear by Nicola Griffith and The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler. The Mountain in the Sea did get quite a bit of buzz, but I don’t recall seeing a lot of buzz for Spear, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see it on the Nebula ballot.
Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 1 writer of colour, 2 international writers*
This category is another mix of the expected and unexpected.
Becky Chambers is one of the most popular science fiction writers to come up in recent years and the nomination for A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, the second novella in her Monk and Robot series, is no big surprise, especially since the first in the series was both a Hugo and Nebula finalist last year. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is also on my personal Hugo longlist.
C.L. Polk is a Nebula favourite and also was a Hugo finalist last year for their Kingston Cycle, so the nomination for their novella Even Though I Knew the End… is not a huge surprise. That said, I’m always happy to see fantasy romances recognised in a genre that traditionally has had issues with romantic elements. This novella is also on my personal Hugo longlist.
I have been enjoying Kelly Robson’s works, though I haven’t yet read her historical fantasy novella High Times in the Low Parliament. It sounds fun, though.
“Bishop’s Opening” by R.S.A. Garcia from Clarkesworld is another novella I haven’t read, though it also was a finalist for the Ignyte and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards.
I Never Liked You Anyway by Jordan Kurella completely passed me by. A quick Google reveals that it’s an Orpheus and Euridice retelling.
Tor.com still dominates this category with three of five finalists – the remaining two finalists were published in Clarkesworld and by the small press Vernacular.
Diversity count: 3 women, 1 man, 1 non-binary, 2 writers of colour, 3 international writers
I have read only two of the finalists in this category. “We Built This City” by Marie Vibbert from Clarkesworld, and I’m very glad to see it nominated here. This story is also on my personal Hugo longlist.
I also read and enjoyed “Murder by Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness” by S.L. Huang, also from Clarkesworld.
For some reason, I did not read any of the three nominated stories from Uncanny, though John Chu, S.B. Divya and Natalia Theodoridou are all fine writers and I will certainly check out the stories before the Hugo nomination deadline.
The final finalist in the category “A Dream of Electric Mothers” by Wole Talabi from the anthology Africa Risen, which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet either.
It’s notable that Uncanny and Clarkesworld dominate this category with only one finalist published elsewhere.
Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 4 writers of colour, 2 international writers
Best Short Story
I can’t say much about this category, because I haven’t yet read any of the finalists. 2022 was a stressful year for me, so I read less short fiction than usual. I will try to remedy that before Hugo nominations close.
That said, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and John Wiswell are two of the most exciting writers to come up in recent years. They’re both lovely people, too, and I’m really happy to see them nominated here.
Ai Jiang is a name I’m seeing in the TOCs of the various SFF magazines more and more, though I haven’t read the story of hers that’s nominated. Suzan Palumbo is mainly known as a horror writer and coincidentally the second writer from Trinidad and Tobago on the 2022 Nebula ballot next to R.S.A. Garcia. I’m not familiar with either Samantha Mills or Ian Muneshwar.
This category has the greatest variety of sources of nominated stories and includes stories published in Asimov’s, F&SF, The Dark, Nightmare Magazine, Tor.com and Uncanny. We don’t see a lot of finalists from the print magazines in the Hugos and Nebulas anymore, because the online magazines are more accessible and therefore read by more people. It’s also notable that we have two finalists from horror magazines, proving that the Nebulas are a lot more open to horror than the Hugos, since we’ve had several horror stories on the ballot in recent years.
Diversity count: 3 women, 3 men, at least 3 writers of colour, 3 international writers
Andre Norton Award for YA and Middle Grade SFF
I can’t really say much about this category, because I haven’t read any of the finalists and wasn’t even aware of most of them. I have heard of K. Tempest Bradford, of course, but mainly as an astute commentator on race issues in SFF and not so much as an author of middle grade SFF. The only other author in this category I’ve heard of is H.A. Clarke. Jenn Reese, Maya MacGregor and Deva Fagan are new to me.
Diversity count: 3 women, 2 non-binary, 1 writer of colour, 1 international writer
Ray Bradbury Award for Best Dramatic Presentation
Not a lot of surprises in this category.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is currently winning all the awards (and deservedly, too), so I’m not at all surprised to see it on the ballot.
Andor was the best of the three Star Wars series to air last year and put the political commentary, that has always been an integral part of Star Wars, front and center in a way that Star Wars rarely does. The nominated episode is the one about the prison break, which was truly excellent.
I’m really, really happy to see the gay pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death on the ballot, since it was such a delight and apparently still hasn’t been renewed.
Severance has gotten a lot of critical acclaim, though I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet, partly because office/workplace shows aren’t my thing at all, probably because I’ve never had that sort of office job. Though thankfully, no one has had the sort of hellish office job depicted in Severance.
Nope seemed to get less attention than Jordan Peele’s previous movies Get Out! and Us. It’s still a highly deserving finalist and I actually preferred it to Us, which didn’t really work for me.
The Sandman is a bit of a surprise, because the series came out ten to fifteen years too late and didn’t seem to get that much popular attention in a landscape crowded with excellent genre TV. On the other hand, it’s Neil Gaiman and it’s Sandman.
Interestingly, no Marvel movie or TV show has got a single nomination. Of course, last year’s Marvel movies weren’t all that great (that said, Wakanda Forever was actually good), but the TV shows were pretty good. So has Marvel finally lost its luster?
It’s also interesting that only two of the finalists are movies, the other four are TV shows. But then, we are living not just in a new golden age, but actually a golden deluge of genre television.
No diversity count, too many people are needed to make movies and TV shows.
Best Game Writing
I can only repeat what I said about this category in previous years, namely that I’m not a gamer, don’t recognise any of the titles except for Elden Ring and can’t really say anything about them.
No diversity count, too many people are needed to make games.
All in all, this is another excellent Nebula ballot. Those who are worried that not enough men are being nominated for the big genre awards will be happy to see that there are several men, including white men, on the ballot this year. Though I’m sure they will find something wrong with the men in question anyway.
I don’t see a lot of notable trends at first glance. We do have fairytale and Greek mythology retellings, both of which are popular right now, though the fairytale retelling trend seems to be waning a bit. We have a couple fo historical fantasies and the Nebulas continue to be more open to horror than the Hugos. Interestingly, there is comparatively little science fiction on the ballot. Cozy SFF is clearly on the rise – which will annoy certain people to no end – and a couple of finalists clearly fall into the cozy category. Definitely Legends & Latte and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy. You could also make a case for Our Flag Means Death and probably others.
Regarding publishers, Tor and Tor.com as well as Uncanny and Clarkesworld are still quite dominant, though let’s not forget that Tor is the biggest SFF publisher in the English speaking world. And we do have plenty of finalists published in other magazines or by small presses. Even the “big three” print magazines get a look in – well, two of them, at any rate.
As for indie writers, Legends & Latte by Travis Baldree was originally self-published, but was then picked up by Tor. And I can’t tell if I Never Liked You Anyway by Jordan Kurella is self-published or published by a small press. Nonetheless, we used to see more indie writers on the Nebula Ballot five years ago (and the Nebulas were one of the first genre awards to nominate a self-published novel, well before SFWA started accepting indies), so something changed. Is it because indies don’t have the marketing budget of a big publisher and are thus invisible to many nominators (but then we do have a couple of small presses nominated and they don’t have much of a marketing budget either) or because indies don’t write the sort of thing Nebula voters are looking for or did the indies all take their ball and went home after the 20Booksto50K uproar of 2019?
All in all, it’s another very strong Nebula ballot.
*International authors means authors living and writing outside the US.
ETA: And we actually have a minor Nebula uproar, when a Baen Books editor claimed that the novel The Dabare Snake Launcher by Joelle Presby had been leading during the nomination phase, but was not on the final ballot. Eventually it turned out that the screenshot in question was from the Nebula recommended reading list and not from the actual nomination tally, which is not public.
ETA 2: Camestros Felapton also weighs in one the Nebula kerfuffle.