When I was a teenager, I used to look at those mysterious words on book covers: "Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards…" "by the winner of the Hugo Award…" "nominated for the Nebula" and wonder wistfully what these nominations were and who got to make them.
And now I've finally done my first Nebula nomination – yes, yes, right at the last minute, thank you very much – and that was a miserable experience.
This was thanks to three separate problems. One, for budget reasons, I am generally limited to books I can get in the library – and while our library is generally pretty thorough, it does not, alas, have a budget for many copies of most books (although I continue to, rather inexplicably, see several copies of Mercedes Lackey's books on the shelves, while overhearing other patrons ask, in hopeful voices, if by any chance the copy of Connie Willis' All Clear
is in yet). As a result, I did not read several novels, and in particular, I did not read N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
and Connie Willis' All Clear
. I believe
all of you who are assuring me in reverent tones thatThe Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
is a brilliant, beautiful book that is utterly worthy of award nomination, but I am uncomfortable nominating material I haven't actually read. Hopefully I'll be able to read it before the time for Hugo nominations comes in, and see if I want to switch out names on a ballot.
(Yes, I did read some of the novels posted up on the SFWA forums, before people suggest that, which helped, but that couldn't make up for missing months of new books.)
Second, in some categories (and this is going to get worse with the Hugos) I had problems reaching five nominations. Not just novels; I have only four novella nominations, again because of a lack of reading on my part, not because of a lack of quality novels. True, two novellas from last year really stood out, but that still left me with two slots to fill and lots of googling/foruming.
I had the complete opposite problem with short stories. As I mentioned on Twitter, I began keeping a casual list on Excel of stories I would want to nominate, knowing that my chances of remembering specific stories by February were low to nonexistent.
By the time January rolled around, I had 83 stories on that list and had not read anything in Clockwork Phoenix 3
yet. (My apologies to time_shark
with assurances that this has now been corrected, and, well, wow, and if you're still reading this, get thee out and buy a copy; this anthology was truly outstanding and the best Clockwork Phoenix
yet; I'm not in it, so yes, I really mean it, but I digress.) More January reading brought that total up to 98. As it turned out, many of these were novelettes, not short stories (basically, someone somewhere picked a cut off point of 7000 words, with under = short stories and over = novelettes, which is all nice, but as a reader I really don't pay any attention to word count) which brought the number down again, but still left me with some very painful decisions. I'll add that a minor guess about 1200 short stories and 500 novelettes were eligible –the SFWA forums had about 300 eligible stories, but certainly didn't include all of the eligible works.
Worse, this time around, I actually knew and liked several of the people who had stories up for consideration -- and I liked their stories
. I could easily be accused of bias here, but the teenager me, looking at books, had not considered that some of those people would be professional acquaintances and online friends.
Over the weekend I winnowed down the stories and the novelettes (and check IMDB to find out the writers' names for the Bradbury Awards; I hope IMDB is correct because I honestly don't bother to read the screenwriter names as they scroll across the screen in TV shows.) And, unfortunately, I had to leave some very worthy stuff off my list. I deliberately did not look at the running totals and previous nominations, since I wanted to make up my own mind, or get depressed because I wasn't on those running totals and previous nominations, and even now that my votes are in, I still haven't looked, so I have no idea how my nominations matched up with anyone else's.
But the lesson we can learn here is that this is an astonishing time for short speculative fiction. I'm not going to name specific authors here, but I am going to say that I found extraordinary stories (and novelettes) in Tor.com
, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
, Strange Horizons
, Apex Magazine
, Daily Science Fiction
, Abyss and Apex
,Cabinet des Fees
and more, not to mention the print anthologies of Warriors
, The Beastly Bride
,Clockwork Phoenix 3
, The Way of the Wizard
I've occasionally heard readers say that they can't find short fiction, and I kinda have to blink. (From the writer's point of view, things are a bit different – so many people are writing such excellent stuff that it's difficult to break in, making many of us, ok, me, wish for more short fiction publications, but that's clearly my problem and a sign that I have to polish my fiction, not a reader issue). There's a lot out there.
(Although as a reader, I still want more speculative poetry venues -- but that may be just me)
What there isn't
a lot of out there is full length science fiction/fantasy films in 2010 worthy of Hugo nominations, which is why that field will be left mostly blank when I get around to filling out the next set of entries.
In any case, based on this, I would like to make a modest proposal: allow voters to nominate up to ten
short stories (and maybe novelettes) for the Nebulas and Hugos, especially given that the number of eligible short stories (as I said, probably 1200) vastly outnumbers the number of eligible novels and novellas. A similar argument could probably be made for short dramatic forms, since the number of eligible television episodes vastly outweighs the number of eligible films, even in better years than 2010 (which was just terrible for science fiction films). It would at least make this time period a bit less painful.