(Image shamelessly stolen from SF Signal, which you should be reading more often anyway.)
The 2009 Nebula Award finalists have been announced, and I'm in the somewhat awkward position of reporting on the nominations whilst having been nominated myself. The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of SFWA. The awards will be announced at the Nebula Awards Banquet the evening of May 15 at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, just 20 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center in Fla. Other awards to be presented are the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Science Fiction or Fantasy for Young Adults, the Bradbury Award for excellence in screenwriting and the Solstice Award for outstanding contribution to the field.
The finalist for best novel are:
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade, Sep09)
The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)
Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)
The City & The City, China Mieville (Del Rey, May09)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)
Of these books, the Mieville has received all sorts of praise on Amazon, making the list of the hundred best of the year. The Windup Girl, a complex and dark view of the future, has also gotten appreciation from many reviewers. Boneshaker appears to be a crowd favorite and appeared on the Amazon SF/F Top 10 for 2009. The Barzak novel is a sleeper nomination for a book somewhat overlooked on its initial publication. I must confess I haven't read the Gilman. Congratulations to all of the other nominees.
When I received the call on Wednesday that Finch had been nominated, I was shocked. My first reaction was to assume it was a joke or a miscount of the votes as I had no idea I was even in the running. SFWA, the organization that runs the Nebulas, keeps a tally of nominating votes for various works online, in member-only forums. So if you are a member, and I'm not, you would have a decent sense of whether you might make the ballot. A lot of people contribute to making a book a success, so I'm really happy for my editor, Victoria Blake, the cover designer, John Coulthart, and the publicist, Matt Staggs, who all made Finch work. Finch has also made year's best lists from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Barnes & Noble Review, and others.
But I'm happy to be on the ballot in part because the selections in the short fiction categories (below the cut) are so diverse in terms of the approaches to storytelling. It's also a nice mix of new and established writers. In trhe past, the Nebula has seemed fairly conservative to me, but in the short fiction categories at least the nominations below begin to hint at a coming sea-change.
I decided to get Mike Allen's reaction to the ballot, as he was a Nebula finalist last year and also edits the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series that published one of this year's short story nominees. He also noted the presence of more Internet and small press selections.
"With all due respect to the print magazines, the Nebula Awards are a writing award, and to me [this] mix better reflects the range of writing that's happening in the field. In that sense, the new Nebula selection methods have made room for improvement."
What does a Nebula nomination for a story from Allen's anthology mean to him? "It means a ton. Norilana Books, my publisher, is a POD-only press. I haven't felt any qualms about that, because the Clockwork Phoenix books are to my mind not commercial; they're art for art's sake. But just because something is small press, and not available in the big chains, and isn't intended to be the reading equivalent of a box of Chicken McNuggets, it doesn't mean that everyone involved isn't doing their damndest to create an excellent product. Here's your proof."
The importance of the Internet to the nomination process has grown in recent years, and Allen argues it's only going to become more important. "I'm not going to kid you: Saladin's story got seen by so many (or at least by enough SFWA members to land him a nomination) not because of book sales but because I picked it to be published online in full at the review blog Fantasy Book Critic as a promotion for the anthology. I'd be willing to bet that's a pretty unconventional route to becoming a Nebula finalist. It's also, of course, proof that Saladin, a dynamic new writer, wrote a damn fine story."
This confirms my own thought that, increasingly, fiction offered online will gain an advantage in awards voted on by readers (or, in this case, writers). Is this a good or a bad thing? The answer isn't that simple. One potential effect will be to create more visibility for less established writers, and thus more visibility for that kind of essential energy. It's an effective way of counterbalancing the natural conservatism of awards. But another effect may be that writers with strong online constituencies will gain an advantage regardless of the quality of their work. How it will ultimately play out, though, is a mystery to me.
Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela, Saladin Ahmed (Clockwork Phoenix, 2, Norilana Press, Jul09)
I Remember the Future, Michael A. Burstein (Apex Press, Nov08)
Non-Zero Probabilities, N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld, Nov09)
Spar, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct09)
Going Deep, James Patrick Kelly (Asimov's Science Fiction, Jun09)
Bridesicle, Will McIntosh (Asimov's Science Fiction, Jan09)
The Gambler, Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2, Pyr Books, Oct08)
Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage, Michael Bishop (Asimov's Science Fiction, Jul08)
I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said, Richard Bowes (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Dec09)
Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast, Eugie Foster (Interzone, Jan/Feb09)
Divining Light, Ted Kosmatka (Asimov's Science Fiction, Aug08)
A Memory of Wind, Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com, Nov09)
The Women of Nell Gwynne's, Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, Jun09)
Arkfall, Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep09)
Act One, Nancy Kress (Asimov's Science Fiction, Mar09)
Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon, Feb09)
Sublimation Angels, Jason Sanford (Interzone, Sep/Oct09)
The God Engines, John Scalzi (The God Engines, Subterranean Press, Dec09)