Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nebula Awards Showcase 2011 - Edited by Kevin J. Anderson


About the Book

With this inaugural volume at Tor, the annual Nebula Award collection is reborn as a fiction-only anthology. This collection of nominees for 2010’s Nebula Awards includes all of the prior year’s most celebrated stories, and will be published in time for the 2011 Nebula Awards in May, 2011. 

2009’s award winners, announced in May 2010, include Kage Baker’s novella “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s,” Eugie Foster’s novelette “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” Kij Johnson’s short story “Spar,” plus Paolo Bacigalupi’s novelette, “The Gambler.”

384 pages (paperback)
Published: May 24, 2011
Published by: Tor

Thanks to Tor for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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I’ve never read a short story compilation before. Neither have I ever read any of the Nebula Awards Showcase books that Tor releases each year. Thus, I have nothing to compare this book to, and no idea how I am “supposed” to review a group of short stories. This will be a learning experience for me and hopefully not completely laughable for you.

I feel rather ignorant admitting this, but I’m assuming that if I had no idea how Nebula Awards worked, someone else probably doesn’t either. Thus, a short paragraph describing the selection process and what exactly is included in the Showcase might be helpful to some readers. I will paraphrase what Anderson describes in the introduction of the Showcase.

Throughout the year the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America write in nominations for stories that they feel are worthy of Nebula consideration. If a piece gets enough nominations during its publication year it is added to the preliminary ballet. The members of SFWA then vote on the list, reducing it to four candidates in each category (best novel, novella, novelette, short story). From that list, the final Nebula winners are chosen. And from that list, one can find the contents of the Showcase.

It’s safe to assume, from reading the previous paragraph, that there are quite a few authors in the Showcase that speculative fiction fans will probably get quite excited about. The winner for Novella is Kage Baker’s The Women of Nell Gwynne’s. Novelette was won by Eugie Foster and is called Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentlemen, BeastSpar by Kij Johnson won short story and Paulo Bacigalupi’s novelette The Gambler can also be found here.

Out of the four pieces listed above, I perhaps found Eugie Foster’s novelette the most compelling. Foster’s novelette describes a time when the actions and deeds of individuals are determined by the masks they wear each day. Not only is this an incredibly well written piece, but it is also amazingly thought provoking and packs quite a punch for its size.

Out of those four winners, it may be Paulo Bacigalupi’s name which makes readers pause and think, “I must read this.” There is only a short paragraph describing Bacigalupi’s award winning novel, The Windup Girl. This may be a disappointment to some readers who could wish there was a chapter or two of the book included in the Showcase. Others may be glad that there wasn’t more of The Windup Girl included here and feel that one paragraph is adequate enough. Regardless of which side of the line you land on, The Gambler by Bacigalupi is well written and interesting enough to fulfill any reader’s Bacigalupi fix.

From the research I have done while working on this review, I learned that Anderson included rarely acknowledged Nebula winners like Author Emeritus (Neal Barrett Jr.) and Damon Knight Grand Master (Joe Haldeman). Before each of these categories is an added bonus of the speeches given at the awards ceremony about each author, followed by some of their work. Toward the end of the Showcase are the winners of the Rhysling Award for poetry.

Anderson added quite a bit to this compilation. While this will please some readers with its broad span of the Nebula Awards, others may feel that there is too much packed into this one volume. It’s hard to tell what side of the line any reader will fall on unless they actually read this book and see how they feel about it themselves.

Each author entry begins with a short description of the inspiration behind the story, which tends to give the reader a bit of background and helped me, in many cases, care more about what I was reading. At the end there is a short author biography. While these two sections aren’t necessary to the work as a whole, they do add an extra umph to the stories, and in many cases, serve as a hook to keep the reader engaged. I also found it rather interesting to see what inspired certain stories or the ideas the author was trying to toy with during writing their piece.

While not every story within the Showcase was a homerun for me, this is quite a compendium of talent and is worth taking a look at. With authors like N. K. Jemisin, Neal Barrett, Jr., Rachel Swirsky and many more, there should be something here that could please nearly every taste. However, it is worth noting that, as with anything of this nature, some stories and novellas will please readers more than others, depending on individual taste. Regardless, there are some heavy-hitting authors here that will probably make many genre fans pause and take notice. In the end, the Showcase is an impressive collection of talent, imagination, and well-deserved recognitions.

I usually include a rating about right here, but I'm not going to on this one. I can't think of a proper rating for something with as much diversity as this so I'm just leaving it off. 

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