Nebula preliminary nominees considered

The Nebula short fiction nominees, in a nutshell.

Novellas (5/5)

Albert Cowdrey: The Tribes of Bela (F&SF, FictionWise)
* Golden Age stuff (except with female characters equal to males). A straightforward sf story, well enough told, but not spectalular. In the Dozois collection.

Kelly Link: Magic for Beginners (F&SF)
* Awfully good. Should win.

Robert J. Sawyer: Identity Theft (Author’s site)
* Amazingly, a Sawyer story that I actually rather liked, taking the absurd premise of last year’s Hugo nominee “Shed Skin” and putting it into a film noir setting on Mars. Ending a bit too pat but otherwise enjoyable.

Bud Sparhawk: Clay’s Pride (Analog, FictionWise)
* Crumbs. The one dud of this entire list. Clean-cut military types with European surnames outwit local corrupt planetary hierarchy with Asian names, in a plot straight out of ‘Nam (with off-stage aliens to give us some sfnal content). I am amazed this stuff still gets published, let alone nominated.

Paul Witcover: Left of the Dial (SCI FICTION)
* I liked this one too, as did , though wondered if it was really much more than a ghost story.

The Link and Sawyer stories were first published in 2005 and thus are eligible for this year’s Hugos. I shall certainly nominate the Link, and (and I never thought I would say this) possibly the Sawyer as well.

Novelettes (9/10)

Daniel Abraham: Flat Diane (F&SF)
* This is simply a horror story rather than fantasy or science fiction. Not my thing. (Though liked it.)

Paolo Bacigalupi: The People of Sand and Slag (F&SF, Feb04)
* Also a rather disturbing and nasty story, but at least it was sfnal (and a Hugo nominee last year). In the Dozois and Haber/Strahan collections.

William Barton: Harvest Moon (Asimov’s)
* Good romantic stuff about lunar exploration in a slightly different 1960s. After an excellent build-up I had expected a slightly heftier punchline though.

James L. Cambias: The Ocean of the Blind (F&SF)
* Another nasty story, unpleasant future version of Jacques Cousteau gets his comeuppance from sonar-using aliens. Shows promise but prose a little clunky and characters behave stupidly for the sake of a good story. In the Dozois collection.

Cory Doctorow: Anda’s Game (
* Very good story combining the themes of virtual gaming and globalisation. Surely this will win.

Eileen Gunn and Leslie What: Nirvana High (Gunn’s website)
* More futuristic schoolchildren, like Doctorow’s story. Lots of good bits but didn’t quite fit together for me.

James Patrick Kelly: Men are Trouble (Asimov’s)
* Rather good – Clarke’s Childhood’s End meets Wyndham’s “Consider Her Ways”. But female point-of-view not quite convincing. In the Dozois collection.

John G. McDaid: Keyboard Practice Consisting of an Aria with Diverse Variations for the Harpsichord with Two Manuals (F&SF)
* I just couldn’t get into this one; seemed to be about a near future piano contest but it never became clear to me what was actually going on.

Paul Melko: Strength Alone (Asimov’s, Dec04)
* Human gestalt-mind future, trainee spaceship pilots caught in natural disaster; characters sadly two-dimensional, but look at the scenery!

Beth Shope: Dragon’s Eye (Lords of Swords, Daniel E. Blackston, Ed., Pitch-Black Books, Dec04)
* Not on-line so haven’t read it (yet.)

The Barton and McDaid stories were first published in 2005 and thus are eligible for this year’s Hugos. I shall certainly nominate the Barton.

Short Stories (14/16)

Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta: Rough Draft (Analog)
* Fun story about a science fiction author confronted with his own literary activities in an alternate universe. Zoran Živković has done this one better but it’s nicely done here.

Dale Bailey: The End of the World as We Know It (SF site, FictionWise)
* Nice elegiac story about the end of the world, with many riffs on past disasters and tips of the hat to sf authors who have gone before.

Richard Bowes: There’s a Hole in the City (SCI FICTION, Jun05)
* A 9/11 ghost story, though rather an effective one (my favourite in that category is still Lucius Shepard’s “Only Partly Here”)

Carol Emshwiller: I Live With You (F&SF)
* Another ghost story – I think. Didn’t really feel sfnal enough to me.

Anne Harris: Still Life With Boobs (Author’s livejournal)
* Funny story about wandering breasts.

John G. Henry: Small Moments in Time (Analog)
* Time-travel story which addresses the old question: if you could change history by preventing a major awful event, would you? Done decently enough though I didn’t feel it added any more.

Nancy Kress: My Mother, Dancing (Asimov’s)
* Nicely written but I really didn’t understand what was going on. In the Haber/Strahan collection.

Jonathan Lethem: Super Goat Man (New Yorker)
* Story about a minor superhero growing old as a college professor. Style nice, not grabbed by the substance.

Kelly Link: The Faery Handbag
* Has already won the Hugo for Best Novelette. A good piece, though I felt not as good as some others on that list. In the Haber/Strahan fantasy collection.

Mike Resnick: A Princess of Earth (Asimov’s, FictionWise)
* Was a Hugo nominee. Old man meets famous fictional character for long rambling conversation and cop-out ending.

M. Rickert: Cold Fires (F&SF)
* Impressive short piece of magical realism in the American midwinter.

Benjamin Rosenbaum: Start the Clock (F&SF)
* Zany and touching story in a future where people can choose to remain stuck in childhood (though some of the details are left a bit obscure). In the Dozois collection.

Lawrence M. Schoen: The Sky’s the Limit (All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, David Moles and Jay Lake, Ed., Wheatland Press, Nov04)
* Not on-line so haven’t read it (yet.)

Ray Vukcevich: Glinky (F&SF)
* Tale of alternate timelines, also in the Hartwell/Cramer collection; didn’t quite work for me.

Bud Webster: Christus Destitutus (Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic, F. Brett Cox and Andy Duncan, Ed., Tor, Aug04)
* Not on-line so haven’t read it (yet.)

K.D. Wentworth: Born-Again (F&SF)
* A silly silly story about cloning Jesus.

The Anderson/Moesta and Wentworth stories were published in 2005 and thus are eligible for this year’s Hugos. I will probably nominate the former but definitely not the latter.

I have to say that I remember the Nebula preliminary lists of recent years as being distinctly less impressive and memorable than this one. There are very few real stinkers here, and more often when the stories failed for me it was through being over-ambitious rather than actually bad.

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