2017 Nebula Awards Ceremony Thoughts

On 20 May, 2017, the Nebula Awards for 2016 were handed out, and I’m fairly pleased with the results. I do have one major nit, and you’ll hear about it in a few minutes.

Primarily, I’m happy for all the winners and most of the finalists. For the large part, they all belonged on that list, and they all could have won it. A fantastic thing about being part of the SF/F scene right now is the compelling quality of work being done by a diverse group of authors.

I’m especially glad that David Levine got the Andre Norton YA Award for “Arabella of Mars,” one of my favorite novels of the year. It gets its own review elsewhere on this site, so please “Search” in the upper left and see why I love it, and perhaps that will move you to treat yourself to a great, fun read.

Charlie Jane Anders won Best Novel for “All the Birds in the Sky,” and that is well deserved.

However, her win presents me with a bit of a challenge. For years I’ve been prognosticating about the Best Novel winner for the Hugo award with some success. The only reason I do that is to test my own awareness of what is happening in my own field: How in touch am I? Am I reading the right stuff? Am I still able to judge quality SF/F when I see it? None of that is for bragging rights, or to say, “I told you so.” All of that is to say, “Yep, Vonne, you’re still in this,” or “Uh, Vonne, you missed reading some really good stuff, you idiot.”

This is the first year I expanded that predicting business into the Nebulas and even the Clarkes, and you can find my predictions elsewhere on this site by doing that same “Searchy” thing.

I was dead wrong on my short-list picks for the Clarkes. Well, I got three out of six right, but that can be done by flipping a coin, so no awareness of the field is really required. My pick to win isn’t even in the finalists. FAIL!

Here, I got the Best Novel Nebula wrong. I picked Ms. Anders to win the Hugo, but N. K. Jemisin to get the Nebula for “The Obelisk Gate.” My reasoning is along the lines of: “Jemisin got the Hugo last year, so is unlikely to get it again this year, but this sequel is REALLY GOOD, so maybe it gets the Nebula while Anders gets the Hugo.” Plus, the Nebula is more of a literati award from the professionals in the industry, and, to be honest, Jemisin’s a better writer than Anders. (Note: they are both WAY BETTER than me, but still, Jemisin is a more nuanced, stylistic, consistently attention grabbing writer. Anders caught lightning in a bottle, but I’m not convinced future offerings will be as magical . . . yet.) This race in both the Hugo and Nebula is really about these two works.

None of that is my nit. I don’t mind being wrong, and Anders’ work is outstanding, so the award is well deserved and I’m happy for her.

Here’s my nit: This is about diversity. Looking at the pictures of the winners, I see a lot of women, which is excellent because, in my view, women are changing and leading the field right now. I see alternative gender roles on display in the form of openly gay writers or writers who wrote openly gay or transgender focused works. Okay. I’m not any of those things, so I have little to say about it, but it counts as diversity and that’s a good thing.

And I see a lot of white folks holding awards.

Yeah, I said it. Granted, there’s a middle Eastern (shout out to the Oracle of the Bus, girl!) or two in there, but very fair skinned ones. There were many PoC nominated, but even the photographs of the conference and party lack for color. And that’s my nit. Diversity fail.

I’m not saying Jemisin should have won because she’s black, any more than I’m saying Nisi Shawl should have for the same reason, or Allyssa Wong for being Asian. However, Jemisin is the superior writer.

And the picture of winners is too damn white. In fact, the pictures of the entire conference is too damn white. What’s up with that?

21 May, 2017




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