[Update: added review of final story, "An End to All Things".]
Like last year, I undertook a project to read the short fiction nominees for this year’s Nebula Award. Only two of the nominees were not available online this year. One of those (Michael A. Burstein’s “Sanctuary”) I read in Analog, the other (“An End to All Things” by Karina Sumner-Smith) I couldn’t get a copy of, so it was not reviewed. (If I manage to get my hands on a copy, I’ll update this post.) [Update: See review below.]
Once more, I thought this was a fun project as it makes me feel like I’m keeping in touch with the best that the current short fiction landscape has to offer. Or is that a fallacy? Although I enjoyed immensely all of the novella nominees, some of the shorter works were considerably less than stellar. In their defense, those tended to be the fantasy stories; my partial indifference towards that genre couldn’t bode well for them anyway. Nonetheless, I remained hopeful, expecting – perhaps naively – something special from stories that are nominated for awards.
I’m not sure if it’s a trend or just something I notices because, in this age of Internets, looking up the information is so darn easy, but it seems that more and more short fiction that I read draws upon history and mythology to tell their stories. This year’s nominees initiated Wikipedia lookups for Helen of Troy, Henry David Thoreau, Narcissus, Walpurgis Night, Erwin Schrödinger and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Science fiction is nothing if not cause to brush up on history. Apparently.
In a nutshell, then, here are my impressions of the stories in each category, sorted from most to least enjoyable. My winning picks are the tops ones listed in each category.
“Sanctuary” by Michael A. Burstein (Read a preview)
“Burn” by James Patrick Kelly
“The Walls of the Universe” by Paul Melko
“Inclination” by William Shunn
“Two Hearts” by Peter S. Beagle
“Little Faces” by Vonda McIntyre
“The Language of Moths” by Chris Barzak
“Journey into the Kingdom” by M. Rickert
“Walpurgis Afternoon” by Delia Sherman
“Henry James, This One’s For You” by Jack McDevitt
“An End to All Things” by Karina Sumner-Smith
“The Woman in Schrödinger’s Wave Equations” by Eugene Mirabelli
“Helen Remembers the Stork Club” by Esther M. Friesner
“Echo” by Elizabeth Hand
“Pip and the Fairies” by Theodora Goss.
Reviewlettes of the stories follow….
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