Nebula Nominations are Wearing the Awesomepants

The Nebula Nominations are Here! The Nebula Nominations are Here! AAAH!

In case you don’t know, the Nebulas are annual awards given to the best science fiction and fantasy of the year (novel, novelette, short story, movie etc.). Unlike the Hugos, the Nebulas are decided by not fandom, but by creators: only members of the Science fiction and Fantasy Writers of American (SFWA) can vote. They’re pretty crucial awards – in fact, I’d put them right up there with the Hugo and the World Fantasy Award, in terms of visibility and importance to the field.

So the Nebula Shortlist coming out? Totally warrants a freakout.

But before I have the aforementioned freakout, a digression (about another freakout). runs an annual reader’s poll on the best novel of the year. Since they’re a major SF/F hub, I assume that the poll is pretty, well, popular,  and so the results might be a bellweather for the Nebulas and the Hugos. And ever since I’ve seen the aforementioned results, I’ve been having a minor freakout.

The freakout goes like this: OH GOD, a list of the ten books and exactly ONE woman. No authors of color (as far as I can tell – please, someone correct me if I’m wrong). And NO support for the really awesomepants genre-defying, mind-bending fantasmagorical novels I think are the “best” of the year. NOOOO, the Hugos and the Nebulas are CLEARLY going to be a two-man race between PAT ROTHFUSS AND GEORGE RR. MARTIN, WHYYYYYYYY?

My freakout kept increasing as I read every category (again: one woman in the short story category. Is there a quota system I’m unaware of?) You can witness the results of said freakout in my post about the Hugo nominations. (Fair warning: it’s quite a long post).

I will admit, I’m the only person I know who would get this worked out about awards that haven’t even been announced yet. Such is my curse.

But for today, my friends, my curse has been lifted, because the Nebula Awards shortlist is OUT. And it is telling me that I should never, ever, ever pay attention to the Tor Reader’s Poll. Because the shortlist?

Is wearing the awesomepants.

I actually gasped when I saw the best novel category. Do you know why? Because N.K Jemisin is BACK on it, ladies and gentlemen. WHOOO HOOO!
I was convinced The Kingdom of the Gods wouldn’t make it on the ballot, because it’s the third book in the trilogy (usually not nominated in these sorts of things) and it was released in late October last year, and there wasn’t the same buzz around it there was around The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Which was really unfortunate, because The Kingdom of the Gods is, in my opinion, even better than The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. It’s absolutely incredible, and I’ve been moping around because I thought it would not get the recognition it so richly deserved. But it has! Hurrah! Go N.K Jemisin!

And then, the shortlist continued its wardrobe of awesomeness by including Jo Walton’s Among Others – one of my favorite reads of the past year (and the only female-authored novel to crack the top ten in Tor’s Reader Poll). Jo Walton, or, as I like to call her: Jo “genre boundaries? What genre boundaries?” Walton.

I am fully committed to any author who writes a Victorian comedy of manners starring a pose of dragons (Tooth and Claw). Or an author who writes a story about a young witch discovering science fiction.

Of course, when I saw China Mielville’s Embassytown was on the shortlist, I knew the Nebulas were going full-out. Oh yeah. The shortlist was putting on its high heels, man. As everyone and their grandmother knows, I am slightly obsessed with China Mielville. He’s one of those hyped authors who truly deserves the hype. He also never rests on his laurels – all of his novels are different from one another, and each one of them is difficult and challenging in new ways. I always approach Mielville with a bit of trepidation because I never know if he’s going to pull it off. It’s like each one of his novels is a roller coaster, but there aren’t any tracks under the car, and Mielville’s sitting there, assuring me that yes, the roller coaster will make it back to the ground safely, and before I can protest, he locks the doors and I can’t get out. But somehow, the roller coaster DOES make it onto the ground, and I’m always amazed it hasn’t fallen out of the sky, and I can never quite figure out how he’s done it. He’s that kind of storyteller.

I was also quite pleased to see Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique on there – I finished it last week, and I thought it was fantastic. Valentine managed to take two things I was getting a bit tired of – Steampunk and circus novels – and make them fresh and interesting by pushing the conventions to that weird, dark place I always hoped they would go to. Plus, I love a good narrative about the posthuman. I’m not sure I liked Mechanique as much as I did some other of 2011’s books, but it’s one I can get behind for the nomination.

And then I saw Kameron Hurley’s God’s War was on the ballot, and I realized that the shortlist wasn’t just wearing the awesomepants. It was wearing the diamond-incrusted, Jean-Paul Gaultier designed awesomepants.
When the ladies of the (wonderful) podcast Galactic Suburbia described God’s War, I though “There’s no way I’m not going to love this.” It’s about an assassin. There are aliens. And a holy war. And a planet settled by muslims. And people sell their wombs. And there’s BOXING. And bugs. Lots and lots and lots of bugs.

And I was right. I did love it. I’m planning on posting a full review at some point in the future, so I will restrain myself for now. But it’s a great, great book, and the fact that it was nominated for a Nebula (rather than burned to the ground for its radical feminism), gives me hope.

Sadly, I have nothing to say about Jack McDevitt’s Firebird, because… I haven’t read it. Whoops. I haven’t even really heard of it, so I will need to track it down and discover why it’s on the ballot. But given the standard of the other nominees, I’m sure it’s fantastic.

Going back to my fears that the ballot would time-travel back into the dark days of all-white men?  Incorrect! Of the best novel authors, four are women, two are men. Hurrah! The trend of women being recognized in the SF/F field continues!

As far as I know, NK Jemisin is the only author of color recognized (again, anyone with clarifications there should let me know, because I don’t want to erase anyone). But two of the novels are in a non-european setting (The Kingdom of the Gods and God’s War) and Valentine’s novel has quite a few non-white characters (I don’t know about Firebird).

I have a lot less to say about the non-novel categories, since I haven’t read that much short fiction this year (or any year, really. I’m working on it). But I let out my second gasp-whoop of the night (after N.K. Jemisin) for Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie.” It’s a story that made me get teary-eyed in a public space. Enough said.

I’m also very excited to see that some of my favorite writers –  Catherynne Valente, Kij Johnson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Rachel Swirsky and Geoff Ryman – were nominated for their work in short fiction.  At some point, I’m planning on actually reading the entire short fiction ballot and writing up thoughts on it… but not until I get some more homework done.

I was a bit disappointed to see X-Men: First Class hadn’t made it onto the dramatic presentation shortlist. Because homoerotic tension should ALWAYS be rewarded with a Nebula. No, actually, unresolved homoerotic tension should be rewarded with a Nebula nomination… but then lose to a movie that actually RESOLVED the aforementioned homoerotic tension. And the Neil Gaiman-penned episode of Dr. Who, “The Doctor’s wife” got a nod, which is great, since I’m sure it will lead to Neil Gaiman doing this again (I love Neil Gaiman).

Finally, regarding the Andre Norton award for Young Adult fiction (which is… not a Nebula?I never quite understand the relationship between two, but they’re given at the same ceremony, and they’re announced at the same time).

I have only read two novels on the shortlist, but based on those two alone, I can tell you that the Andre Norton award is wearing an awesomeskirt to match the Nebula’s awesomepants. Those two books, are, of course, Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch (soccer!) and Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, both of which I thought were fantastic. The Freedom Maze, in particular, is an Acheivement  of a novel (capital A and all). It proves once more that YA can handle difficult and complex topics just as deftly and intelligently as “grown-up” books. If not more.
Also, the cover is amazing. I’m just saying.

all credit goes to the artist (Kathleen Jennings) the author (Delia Sherman) and the publisher (Small Beer Press)

Going back to my epic freakout over the results, I will quickly give a gender/race breakdown of the Nebulas (again, I don’t know all of these authors, and wikipedia/image searches will only tell me so much. Correct my errors if you see them).

4 women
2 men

1 POC (People of Color)
5 caucasian

4 women
2 men

6 Caucasian

3 women (do not be fooled by the “Charlie” in Charlie Jane Anders. I almost was (thank Claude for Wikipedia). She is, in fact, female)
4 men

7 Caucasians

Short Story
3 women
4 men

4 Caucasians

Andre Norton
7 women
1 man

5 Caucasians

Hey, all in all, that’s pretty good! Maybe the Hugos and the World Fantasy awards will be a bloodbath. Maybe all the WINNERS will be white men. You never know. (It’s not paranoia if they’re really trying to kill you).

But for now, my friends, I listen to the message the Nebulas are sending me.

“Shut up, disoriented chick,” sayeth the Nebulas. “We have not yet fallen back to the dark side. We are wearing the awesomepants.  And the awesomeshirt. And the awesome high-heels. We will not go back to the drab blue jeans and T-shirt of old.”

And that’s a message I can get behind.