The Nebula Awards will be announced May 20, 2018. The awards are given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This post is about the novelette category. Nominees in other categories — short stories, novellas, and novels — will be addressed in other posts.
I read all of the novelettes that have been nominated for a Nebula Award. The Nebulas define a work of fiction as a novelette if it is between 7,500 and 17,500 words. Think of them as “long short stories.” Because they are so short (and because our site does not usually review individual short stories, even longer short stories), I have written mini-reviews for each nominee. I’m also going to give you my vote for which story I think should win and my prediction for which story I think will win. I’d encourage you to read them all as they represent a variety of styles in the speculative fiction field.
Weaponized Math by Jonathan P. Brazee
A military sci-fi story about a Marine sniper. The science-fiction elements are light, basically consisting of vague references that the action was taking place on an unspecified planet. The military science fiction books that I’m most familiar with – Forever War, Old Man’s War, Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers – have original out-there concepts. This story isn’t like that. It just as easily could have been a tale about a sniper in Fallujah or Baghdad during the Iraq War. What the story does provide is well-paced, tense action, a realistic portrayal of a Marine in a combat situation, and the camaraderie between those Marines.
A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
An interesting futuristic story about bioengineering “forged” steaks for sale. It’s got a kind of international noir bio-cyber-punk vibe. I liked the story, but I felt that it would have been better as a novella or novel. At its current length, it felt more like a first draft or outline of a longer, better version of the story.
Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara
A trans vampire story, set in an alternate or near-future reality in which vampires are a known thing, with all attendant government involvement, sorta like True Blood. The novelette length did not feel right for this story. It should have either been shorter and more focused or longer with more worldbuilding and characterization.
Dirty Old Town by Richard Bowes
A non-traditional fantasy tale, in which a Boston native of Irish descent reminisces about his old neighborhood and the literal (?) magic of his childhood, family, and neighborhood. The story has a “literary” flavor. I felt that this story would have worked better as a novel. There seemed to be so much more that could and should have been done with it, and a novel-length (or door-stopper length) book would have really allowed these characters to breathe. As is, it felt very jarring, with awkward transitions and developments.
A Human Stain by Kelly Robson
A disturbing short horror story. Moody, dark, tense…it’s effective! It felt like a Guillermo del Toro movie. As a minor quibble, I had a difficult time following some plot elements and descriptions of the action, but ultimately I thought it a worthy Nebula nominee for this category.
Wind Will Rove by Sarah Pinsker
This is a masterpiece. Not only is this my favorite novelette nominee, it is one of my favorite stories PERIOD. There are things about it that seem custom-made for my taste: (1) it is set on a generation ship (2) the protagonist teaches history and (3) she plays a fiddle. But those things aren’t why I love it. It’s beautifully written, similarly to Station Eleven, but it is more tightly focused. It’s a lovely meditation on the nature of generational change, of incorporating what’s come before into something new, of the very nature of history and knowledge itself. And that’s just for starters! I feel like this story should be taught at the beginning of every high school/junior high history class, it’s that dense, interesting, and thought-provoking, while being the perfect size for a novelette.
My pick: Wind Will Rove, in case my gushing enthusiasm did not give that away.
Who I think will win: Beats me. Wind Will Rove should win, if there is any justice in the world.