2017 Nebula Nominees

Nebula and Hugo Award Season

On Monday, February 20th, the Nebula Award nominees were announced by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). The nominees were immediately altered because one of the nominees, Cat Rambo, withdrew her nominated novelette for consideration. (Novelettes have a minimum of 7,500 words, and her story only had 7,070. That’s the official line, anyway. I wonder if Ms. Rambo’s position as the current President of the SFWA played any role. Regardless, she is to be commended for her honor and respect of the genre.)

Current List of Nebula nominees can be found here:


To qualify to vote for any of these, the voter needs to meet some qualifications. First they need to be a member of the SFWA; membership fee is $100 currently. There are other qualifications, such as being a professional writer with three recognized sales to one’s credit, and a specific word count goal to surpass.

The full qualifications can be found here:


Basically, this means the Nebula is a peer-group award that writers give to other writers, so there is a certain amount of prestige involved within the SF Publishing Universe.

Voting on the listed nominees begins on March 1st, 2017, and the awards will be presented during the annual Nebula Conference May 18th-21st in Pittsburgh.

The Hugo Awards are a little different. They are trademarked by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS). To be a part of that, you need to be a member of Worldcon. This will cost anywhere from $50 and up, depending on what kind of access you want to pay for. But, you must be a paid member to vote for anything in the Hugos.

The voting for the Hugos is still going on through March. A list of nominees very similar to this Nebula list will become available in mid-April. The actual awards will be presented in August in Helsinki, Finland, the home of the next Worldcon.

Authors dearly love the Hugos because they approximate what the fans like. That’s the paying public that is supporting them, so they want to be recognized by this group more than their peer group.

But, as you can see, the fans voting only represent those willing to pay for the privilege and are actually members of Worldcon. I hesitate to call it a true fan-based award, thus the word “approximate” in the previous paragraph. I know this fan can’t pop for tickets to Helsinki, Finland, and doubt most of them can. You don’t have to attend to be a voter, but surely you’re expected to show up at other Worldcon events. Maybe not.

The relationship between the two awards is interesting to puzzle over. On the surface, they seem a bit unconnected, but in reality they often cover the same ground. My own personal observation is that it is rare for an author to win both the Nebula and the Hugo, as the awards tend to be spread across both lists. (Yes, I do think there is collusion, but it doesn’t matter because both voting blocs know what they are doing.)

I’m going to limit by comments to the Nebula nominees for Best Novel. They are:

All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
Borderline, Mishell Baker (Saga)
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Ninefox Gambit,Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)

The only one of these I haven’t read is Borderline, by Mishell Baker. I understand it is an urban fantasy, and that is not my normal bailiwick. However, I note my local library has it, and the title references borderline personality disorder. That sounds pretty interesting, as all things involving mental and emotional illness are very intriguing to me. I’ll try to read this one before May, so I can give a cogent review of how it might fare against the others nominated.

Of the listed nominees, I’m betting N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate walks away with the Nebula. Follow my reasoning here:

First of all, this whole series is FANTASTIC! Not just the ideas, but the writing is gorgeous, practically a clinic on many ways to captivate the reader. She lost in this category with The Fifth Season last year. Yet, THAT won the Hugo last year. I honestly believe she will get the Nebula, but not the Hugo this year; then return next year with the final volume and sweep the Hugo for Best Novel and Best Series. (If I read my TwitterScream correctly, she is in finalization phase of the manuscript for that last volume. Cannot WAIT to get my hands on it! Must wait for the actual publication, unless somehow miracles happen. So far, miracles seem in short supply lately.) This series is a genre changer.

Secondly, Charlie Jane Anders should get the Hugo this year for All the Birds in the Sky. This is an extraordinary science fiction/fantasy hashup that everyone should read. If the profanity had been scaled back significantly, this could become required reading in high schools. It — in my opinion — has the word “classic” written all over it. Plus, the politics are right for the time: it infers that SF/F geeks can overcome corporate overlords (insert Trump reference of your choice here), and the Hugo voters will love that. So, the Nebula folks will acquiesce to the Hugo voters and let the Nebula go to her closest co-nominee: Jemisin.

Ninefox Gambit was simply incomprehensible to me, and though I might not be the brightest spark in the campfire, I can clearly tell when an author is trying to write viscera as if it were poetry. Considering the violent times we have thrust upon us, I hope the Nebula people don’t reward this. Yoon Ha Lee has constructed an incredibly complex world-order that no civilization in their right mind would actually adopt. He is a darling of the genre right now for two reasons: first, his short fiction is brilliant; second (here comes the hate mail), he and his family were caught up in the flood damage in 2016 and suffered much. We are a sympathetic lot. But, focus on the book, people. It is the first of a trilogy (why the HELL is everyone writing trilogies these days?), so there will be future opportunities to reward him.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl is a fascinating alternate history tale involving north Africa. The actual history it is based on is simply not taught in most schools of USA, where I sit and where the awards are made. So, though it is complex and cool (steampunk, people! how cool is that!?), I just don’t see it getting the award, due largely to ignorance of the subject matter. A worthy novel, certainly, and belongs in the nominations. But, just don’t see it winning.

Some have complained that Death’s End by Cixin Liu wasn’t nominated. My response to that is: why nominate a work that will surely lose? Cixin Liu is a genius, and this novel piles so many fascinating ideas between its covers that I feared to open it; the explosion of ideas might put someone’s eye out. But: the politics. He basically argues for isolationist-protectionist-fear-mongering as a survival strategy. We have enough of that crap playing out in our lives right now; we can’t and won’t reward it.

So, for now (pre-Borderline) that’s my picks.

Ms. Jemisin: start working on your Nebula Award speech.

Ms. Anders: start working on your Hugo Award speech.

I will start working on letting Mishell Baker blow me away with Borderline.

Peace. Love. Out.

23 February 2017


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