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Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 by Catherine…

Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 (2013)

by Catherine Asaro (Editor)

Other authors: John Clute (Contributor), C. S. E. Cooney (Contributor), Amal El-Mohtar (Contributor), Nancy Fulda (Contributor), Carolyn Ives Gilman (Contributor)11 more, David W. Goldman (Contributor), Kij Johnson (Contributor), Ken Liu (Contributor), Geoff Ryman (Contributor), Delia Sherman (Contributor), Katherine Sparrow (Contributor), Ferrett Steinmetz (Contributor), Brad R. Torgersen (Contributor), Jo Walton (Contributor), Connie Willis (Contributor), E. Lily Yu (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Nebula Award Stories (47)

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812220,764 (4.14)1



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This tale of a near-future teacher struggling to add Shakespeare to the syllabus deftly skewers political correctness and censorship. Sadly, it's just as timely today as when it was first written.

Merged review:

3.5 average rounds up to 4 stars. (And if you go by pages, it'd be a bit higher, since the longest story is one of the best...) ;-)

***** Ken Liu - The Paper Menagerie. "'The Paper Menagerie' is the first work of fiction, of any length, to have swept the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards." I cried. OK, usually when I say "I cried" I mean one tear escaped my eye... This story made me cry a whole bunch of tears. A story of the disconnect between parents and children, the gap between cultures, and magical origami.

*** Carolyn Ives Gilman - The Ice Owl. Sets up a very nicely done world and situation: a rebellious teenage girl and her flaky, irresponsible mother, flitting around known planets at lightspeed after a political disturbance/genocide analogous to the Holocaust. (It's called the Holocide, and there's even looted art.) However, the ending is completely unsatisfying, feels rushed, and falls flat. It's one of those where you get the feeling that the author feels like you ought to think her characters made the right decisions - but they clearly didn't, nor does it work from a dramatic perspective.

*****Connie Willis - Ado. Re-read - this was published in 1988, but since Willis was awarded the Nebula's 'Grand Master' award this year, it makes sense for a story to be included here. This tale of a near-future teacher struggling to add Shakespeare to the syllabus deftly skewers political correctness and censorship. Sadly, it's just as timely today as when it was first written.

**** Katherine Sparrow - The Migratory Patterns of Dancers. First piece I've read from this fairly-new (I believe) author. In style and theme, it reminds me a lot of Connie Willis - I don't think it's just the proximity in this volume. In an ecologically ravaged near-future, genetically modified men are hired to perform dances that recall the behaviors of the extinct birds whose genes they now carry. But the dancers are trapped by both economics and the procedures they have allowed to be executed on their bodies.

*** Amal El-Mohtar - Peach-Creamed Honey. Poem. It's kind of a nice, sexy, sensual poem, but there's nothing SF/fantasy-oriented about it.

*** David Goldman - The Axiom of Choice. Hmm. There's no SF/fantasy element to this story, unless you consider that referring to the format of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book to make a point about whether or not humans have free will is science-fictional. I don't. The story, about a musician whose life goes down the tubes after he's badly injured in a tragic accident, is OK, but the philosophical aspects feel a little forced.

**** John Clute - Club Story. Not a story, but a piece of literary analysis, gathering together collections of stories set within a framing device as a genre, and tracing that from history to modern science-fiction. Well-written and interesting.

**** Geoff Ryman – What We Found. This story does contain a science-fiction concept: What if the act of observing scientific facts causes those ‘facts’ to ‘wear out’ and change? But mostly, it’s a story about a man (an African scientist from a modest background) dealing with a family history of mental illness that has torn generations apart. Vividly, sensitively and believably written.

**** Jo Walton – Excerpt from Among Others. (Skipped it, since I read the book just recently. But I did really like the book.)

** Nancy Fulda – Movement. A sad and rather wishful story from the point of view of an autistic girl faced with the possibility of an experimental treatment that may cure her – but make her less ‘special.’ Well-written, but I’m deducting a star for my personal dislike of romanticizing brain dysfunction.

**** Ferrett Steinmetz – Sauerkraut Station. Traditional sci-fi novella from the point of view of a young girl who’s grown up on a remote way station in space – servicing travelling spaceships and serving up homemade sauerkraut and sausages. A brief friendship with a diplomat’s son will end up as a pivotal moment, as her family’s station is caught between two sides of a vicious war. Though he’s better known, lately, for his blogging, I’d read more sci-fi by this author – I feel like his style would be well-suited toward longer novels.

*** E. Lily Yu – The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees. I feel like maybe I missed something here. Or maybe the 'something' just wasn't there. I liked the set-up, the conflict between the two insect species and the revolutionary faction amongst the bees. But I didn’t feel that it all pulled together.

** Brad R. Torgersen – Ray of Light. Aliens mysteriously dimmed the sun’s light, causing the last human survivors to hide deep under the frozen oceans, depending on geothermal energy. Nice idea, but the execution, concentrating on a dad’s looking for his rebellious and wayward daughter, a mother who committed suicide, and a dramatic revelation, felt a little bit trite to me. The initial infodump, with the excuse of ‘explaining the situation to a young child’ also felt forced.

*** Delia Sherman – Excerpt from The Freedom Maze. Excerpts are kind of annoying. This seems like it’s a YA book, with the premise that a spoiled young girl is whisked back in time to the ‘Good Old Days’ when her family owned a big plantation house. Unfortunately for her, she immediately assumed to be a mixed-blood bastard – and therefore a slave. Could be good, but I’d need to read the whole thing to have an opinion.

** CSE Cooney – The Sea King’s Second Bride. Aesthetically, this poem about a modern woman opting to marry a Sea King and live with him under the waves, did not appeal to me. I just didn’t like the word choices or the rhyming style.

*****Kij Johnson - The Man Who Bridged the Mist. A beautiful and romantic fantasy novella of an engineer who arrives to build a bridge over a river of poisonous mist, and the ferrywoman whose life has been devoted to crossing that treacherous expanse. Evocative, thoughtful, and bittersweet. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Nebula Awards Showcase 2013
Edited by Catherine Asaro
Reviewed by Karl Wolff

Genetically modified men biking and dancing like birds. Temporal autism. Bridge-building. Anarchist bees. Bathypunk. These are the various jumping off points for the Nebula Awards Showcase 2013: The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Catherine Asaro, who teaches physics at the University of Maryland and is an amateur dancer. This anthology brings together winners and nominees of the Nebula Awards, a prestigious award for writing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. The anthology includes novel excerpts, novellas (17,500 to 40,000 words), novelettes (7,500 to 17,500 words), short stories, and poetry (long and short form). Like any literary award, it has had its share of controversies and the rabid support of a passionate fandom. Every piece in here in extremely well-written and grabs you with the first sentence. Even with stories where the premise felt shoddy, they still possessed a relatable human element, something especially important when dealing with cerebral concepts and scientific abstractions.

By and large, the winning stories came from the usual sources: Asimov's Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Tor.com, etc. The breakout piece in this anthology is a heart-rending story with the funny title, "Sauerkraut Station," by Ferrett Steinmetz. It is the story, technically a novelette, of Lizzie and her mother who operate the eponymous Sauerkraut Station. The station is situated between two antagonistic interplanetary empires and becomes embroiled with political intrigue and the collateral damage of war. Steinmetz creates believable characters and paints a sprawling, life-like space opera canvas. It is wonderful to see a short, self-contained narrative done with an almost effortless execution. In addition to being an exemplary story, it was discovered in an unlikely source: the online science fiction website GigaNotoSaurus.

Other stories include the fable-like short story, "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees," by E. Lily Yu. (This might be of interest to fans of Chris Ware's benighted bee Branford.) "The Paper Menagerie," by Ken Liu is a short story about love, loss, and origami. In only a few pages, Liu weaves together a story about Asian-American assimilation, mail order brides, and magical origami animals. It manages to tug at the heartstrings without coming across as emotionally manipulative. Katherine Sparrow's "The Migratory Pattern of Dancers" is about genetically modified men who re-enact the dances of birds in an ecologically devastated and economically exploitative dystopia. While I didn't really believe the premise, the interrelationships between the veteran and rookie dancers did seem realistic. Despite their genetic modifications, the humanity shone through in an otherwise bleak setting. Finally, the novelette "Ray of Light" by Brad R. Torgersen was a standout in the rare subgenre of bathypunk. It's a story about teen rebellion set at the sea floor. After enduring a cold Minnesota winter, snowy Spring, and overcast May, I could really identify with the innate human desire to see the sun again.

While this is an worthy anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories, each enjoyable in its own way, it is apparent what vulnerabilities these genres have. The stories may have dealt with cutting edge topics, but there was no real envelope-pushing genre work involved. Granted, the Nebulas have a built-in audience within the fan community. But how good are literary awards, especially for specific literary genres, if the form isn't pushed and challenged? Since the Nebulas, like the Hugos, are prestigious awards commanding attention and respect within the fan community, shouldn't we demand more? If nothing else, at least to prevent the genres of science fiction and fantasy from becoming trapped in amber. The ongoing debate/flame war involving the false dichotomy of "science fiction vs. literary fiction" doesn't help things. The term "literary," all bookstore marketing gimmicks aside, just means it is written well. Asaro's delving into GigaNotoSaurus is a good start. Perhaps future editors will dig into the vast indie lit scene, the bizarro subgenre, and other outliers beyond the otherwise cautious and dependable standbys. In the end, what we have here is an anthology of mainstream science fiction and fantasy.

The anthology also has a helpful list of all the winners and nominees for 2012. It also includes a list of winners in major categories from its inception in 1965 to the present.

Out of 10/9.1



http://driftlessareareview.com/2013/05/31/cclap-fridays-nebula-awards-showcase-2... ( )
  kswolff | May 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Asaro, CatherineEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clute, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooney, C. S. E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
El-Mohtar, AmalContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fulda, NancyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gilman, Carolyn IvesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldman, David W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, KijContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Liu, KenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ryman, GeoffContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sherman, DeliaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sparrow, KatherineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Steinmetz, FerrettContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Torgersen, Brad R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Walton, JoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Willis, ConnieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yu, E. LilyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Conti-Zilsberger, Grace M.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, JulieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Nebula Awards Showcase volumes have been published annually since 1966, reprinting the winning and nominated stories of the Nebula Awards, voted on by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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