5 Things You Didn’t Know About This Year’s Nebula Award Nominees (Unless You’re a Geek)

crescentmoon031113The Nebula Awards are one of my favorite dorky events of the year.

The Nebulas are literary awards handed out by the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (or “SFWA” if you like to keep things punchy and are too lazy to type all that out), to the best works of sci-fi/fantasy (or “SFF” if you are, again, lazy) published the previous year.

Members of SFFWA are all professional SFF writers themselves—”professional” meaning they have had a book or short story published by an approved genre publication. If the more well-known Hugo Awards are the People’s Choice Awards of sci-fi and fantasy, the Nebula Awards are the Oscars.

Like Oscars, Nebulas are awarded in multiple categories, including novellas (short novels), novelettes (which are like novellas, but cuter), and short stories (short), but the one everyone cares about—the Best Picture of the Nebulas—is Best Novel.

This year, the SFFWA nominated six books as representative of 2012’s best, and over the next few months, I’ll be checking them out for you in a series of posts, all leading up to the announcement of the winner during the 48th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend (ooo, that sounds glamorous!) on May 19.

This year’s nominees:

Five fun facts about this year’s slate:

1) In case the titles don’t make it obvious, I’ll point out that of the six nominees, five are fantasy novels, and only one is science-fiction (I won’t specify which one, because I respect your intelligence).

There has been a notable shift toward more fantastical nominees in recent years. In 2011, four of the nominees leaned toward fantasy, including the eventual winner, Among Others, by Jo Walton. Still, the winners are more evenly split between genres—in the last decade, there have been six winners in sci-fi, and four in fantasy.

2) For those who think that everyone in the SFF aisle of the bookstore is a Orion slave girl-ogling fat guy in a Star Trek uniform (not that there’s anything wrong with that), allow me to point out that four of the nominees are women (note that Kim Stanley Robinson is all man).

Women also had a clear majority in 2011 and 2010, but prior years were still pretty heavily tipped toward the Y-chromosome, particularly once you Wikipedia back a few decades—of the eyebrow-raising 19 nominees for Best Novel in 1975 (way to make the tough choices, guys), only five were written by women.

3) N.K. Jemisin is celebrating her third consecutive Best Novel nomination, after 2011’s The Kingdom of Gods and 2010’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. No wins yet, but the jury is still out on whether she’s the Susan Lucci of the Nebulas, or the Meryl Streep.

4) Two of the nominees—Ironskin and Glamour in Glass—are kinda sorta homages to British writers of the early 1800s. Ironskin was heavily influenced by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and Glamour in Glass is a Regency Romance in the style of Jane Austen, if Jane Austen books had magic and action sequences (they don’t, right? I’ve only read Persuasion).

5) Young’uns Saladin Ahmed and Tina Connolly have each been nominated for their debut novels (though Ahmed previously earned some attention for his short fiction). Mary Robinette Kowal’s book is but her second (her first—the prequel to Glamour in Glass—was nominated in 2010), and nomination-hoarder N.K. Jemisin is also a relative newcomer compared to, say, Kim Stanley Robinson, who earned his
first nomination for Best Novel in 1984. The takeaway here is that Kim Stanley Robinson is old.

My prediction: although I have not yet read any of these books, I have carefully developed a special formula to determine who will win, adjusting for factors like author’s previous nominations, age, popularity, and political leanings*. I have determined that the winner will be Throne of the Crescent Moon.

* This is, of course, total crap. I picked based on awesomest cover.

Have you read any of the Nebula noms? Which do you hope will win?

  • Glad to see you on a “respectable” forum. I’ve long thought you deserved a bigger audience.

  • And to amuse myself, I like to imagine a fantasy novel written by KSR. As much as I like his ideas (and even some of his books), I’ve found his writing very uneven. Soaring ideas puntuated with excruciatingly boring 20 page lectures from characters that can go on and on and on and on and on…. well, you get the point. I’m just trying to imagine him dealing with vampire queens.

  • Thanks Glee! I am always happy to read your comments on my reviews.

    2312 will actually be my first KSR, though like any sci-fi fan who has ever visited a used book store, I own a copy or two of Red Mars. I have also heard good things about The Years of Rice & Salt. The length of his books definitely intimidates — I have the impression they will be dense reading, and not exactly fun. We’ll see!

    Maybe he and Guy Gavriel Kay can switch genres for their next books. I always get them mixed up anyway.

    • Don’t know Guy Gavriel Kay, but I’ve always considered KSR the left’s answer to Ayn Rand. Evokes the same kind of response from me – “yeah, yeah, I get it…can we get on with the (actually good) story?”…. but he has the same penchant for lecturing/hectoring – why only write a paragraph when 20 pages can do the same thing. I really loved the Mars trilogy – some colors more than others, but the politics were so heavy handed. You haven’t lived until you have read through (in what must approximate real time) the Mars constitutional debates/hearing – everybody, and I mean every character, participates…

      I don’t know why, but “You know nothing, Jon Snow” seems so appropriate for everything these days. (That isn’t aimed at you, but KSR characters…)

      • It takes a skilled author to write a strongly political book that doesn’t preach. I think China Mieville does it well.

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