All the good SFWA boys and girls seem to have dutifully posted about the pending close of the Nebula preliminary ballot on December 31. On the off-chance that you are a SFWA active member and haven’t recommended any fiction yet, I would like to recommend a simple strategy.
My opinion on the Nebulas is that one of the primary benefits comes from the ballot itself. Simply put, any story that makes it on the ballot will automatically get a much wider readership as people review stories for voting. So, when I’m recommending stories, I’m choosing stories that I think people ought to read, whether or not I think the story is ultimately likely to win the award.
Getting on the ballot is a boost to writer because it does raise their profile, and thus, people are more likely to notice their other work later. It might not be a conscious thing, but you see someone on the Nebula ballot and next time, by golly, you’ll see their name and think, “I’ve heard of her.”
So here are writers who I want to support and think that you should read their stories.
Andrea Kail: The Sun God at Dawn, Rising from a Lotus Blossom (Writers of the Future Volume 23) This is a brilliantly done epistolary tale told in a series of letters from Tutankahmen to Abraham Lincoln. Trust me, it makes perfect, chilling sense when you read it. Beautifully and heart-breakingly done.
It also has eight recommendations and its eligibility ends in March. Go! Recommend it! Do you really want to see it not make the ballot because you didn’t take the twenty minutes it will take to read this gorgeous story? I didn’t think so.
Ted Kosmatka: The Prophet of Flores (Asimov’s, Sep07) Holy cow! This is a freaky blend of SF and alternate history. The deep-story to this one? Intelligent design is real. The earth is only 5800 years old and carbon-dating proves it. And then someone finds a fossil that turns everything upside down. Seven recommendations thus far, but this one has eligibility until September, so I’m not quite as frantic about it making the ballot. But, you’ll be missing out if you don’t read it.
Livia Llewellyn: The Four Hundred Thousand I don’t know how to describe this one without giving away the creepy turns this chilling SF story takes. To grossly over-simplify it, this is about the right to choose. But, look, there’s a link so you can go read it. And do.
Jennifer Pelland: Mercytanks The person who pointed this one out to me said that it was the first time they’d really seen far-future done well. And how.
Richard Bowes has two I liked: A Tale for the Short Days (Coyote Road, Trickster Tale) and King of the Big Night Hours(Subterranean, Sep07). The thing that he does, particularly with the King of the Big Night Hours, is tell a story that seems so absolutely, totally grounded in reality that it makes you wonder why you haven’t noticed any magic happening in your life. I mean, these seem like they are things that actually happened.
Vylar Kaftan: Kill Me Extremely evocative SF. The story is deceptively simple. A professional masochist has a device which records her thoughts so that she can be killed and brought back. But there’s a price; there’s always a price.
Andrea Kail: Soft Like a Rabbit I read this the first time as I was typesetting Fantasy. It stopped me cold. I forgot what I was supposed to be doing and just read the story. When I finished I couldn’t understand why I’d never read anything of Andrea Kail’s before. She’s a power-house and tells economical and wrenching stories. Have tissues standing by when you read this.
Nancy Kress: End Game I listened to this one at Escape Pod. Again, SF. Have you ever wished you could just concentrate on one thing at a time? Listen to this and rethink your wish.
David D. Levine: Titanium Mike Saves the Day This is probably the first light-hearted one I’ve mentioned. People always need tall tales; why should outerspace be any different? A fine example of yarn-spinning.
Lisa Mantchev: Six Scents Six tales in one. I could sum this up as tales of famous fictional women and their favorite perfumes, but really, it would not do justice to the brutally clever writing here. For example: â€œMen find it hard to fall in love with a dead girl. They tell her itâ€™s a turn-off that they take her hand at the movies and a finger lands in the popcorn.â€
Joy Marchard: Pallas at Noon lives in the uncanny place between things that could actually happen and the magic that lies just on the other side of that. I don’t even know how to describe this story, but definitely find a copy of Interfictions and read this. It will make you weep and feel hope and despair all at the same time.
Holly Phillips: The Oracle Spoke is quite possibly my favorite story this year. It’s the one that I desperately wish I had written. Please read it.
Cat Rambo: Foam on the Water You think Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid has a chilling ending? Ha! He could have taken lessons from Cat Rambo’s story.
I’m not doing mini-reviews of the novels, because I know you won’t have time to read any between now and then. But here are some that I think you should read after the first of the year.
Chris Barzak, One for Sorrow; Tobias Buckell, Ragamuffin; Jay Lake, Mainspring; Ekaterina Sedia, The Secret History of Moscow.
And finally, I will finish with a totally shameless self-pimp.
Look! For Solo Cello, op. 12 has six whole Nebula recommendations. This is makes me squee with girlish pleasure.
All right folks, there’s still reading to do. Go forth recommend stories! (And I hereby open this up for shameless promotion. Got a story you want read? Link away!)