Nebula Awards Showcase 2010

WTF?  You’d think an anthology with Nebula Awards in the title would be filled with all the award winners and as many of the nominees as they had room to cram in.  Not this one.  It has the winners for each category, and even an excerpt from the winning novel, but all the runner-ups get the hook.  See this Locus page for the entire list of nominees.  Winning must be everything to the editor Bill Fawcett, but I like reading all the nominees for the awards because more often than not, I don’t agree with the voting.

Everything else in these 420 pages is padding, and there’s lots of it.  And to be honest, I also bought the volume for several essays that promised to be a history of science fiction in the 20th century decade-by-decade, but even on that count I was burned badly.  But for a book subtitle, “The Year’s Best SF and Fantasy” I’d have to say I’m extremely disappointed.

To give the publisher and editor the benefit of the doubt, most of the 2009 nominees were available on the net for free reading during the voting period – but so was lots of the padding, like a listing of all the Nebula Awards back to the beginning.  The non-fiction portion of this volume was so slight in actual information, with some essays showing no more work than blog level nattering, that I’d rather trade them all for fiction from the non-winning nominees.

On the cover and title page is “Nebula Awards Showcase 2010 – The Year’s Best SF and Fantasy – Selected by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.”  From that I expected all fiction, no non-fiction filler.  I would also expect fiction that the SFWA endorses as their absolute best writing for the year.  Of course even this is confusing.  The title says 2010, because that’s when the volume is published, but it’s for the 2009 award year, for fiction first published in 2007 and 2008.  This volume contains two excerpts from novels that I wouldn’t have include either, to make more room for complete stories.  I would have called it Nebula Awards 44.

When I found Nebula Awards Showcase 2010 at my bookstore I thought cool, a good collection of stories to keep.  When I flipped through the table of contents and saw this listing of additional essays below, I bought the volume thinking it had two reasons to add it to be collection.

  • Early SF in the Pulp Magazines by Robert Weinberg
  • The Golden Age by David Drake
  • Science Fiction in the Fifties: The Real Golden Age by Robert Silverberg
  • Writing SF in the ‘60s by Frederik Pohl and Elizabeth Anne Hull
  • Science Fiction in the 1970s: The Tale of the Nerdy Duckling by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Into the Eighties by Lynn Abbey
  • Science Fiction in the 1990s: Waiting for Godot … or Maybe Nosferatu by Mike Resnick

These essays are really disappointing.  I’m sure part of their fault lies with my expectations.  I assumed in an anthology about great fiction, the essays would be surveys of the best fiction from each of the decades covered.  It appears the business of SF/F is more interesting to the SFWA writers. 

I was wanting to be reminded what were the best novels, novellas, novelettes and short stories from each decade.  How can you write an essay about SF in the 1960s and not mention the New Wave?  And, not mention work by Samuel R. Delany and Roger Zelazny, the two authors I think of as the decade’s brightest stars?  Delany won 4 Nebula awards in the five years they were given in the 1960s.

What I would have loved from these essays, is for their authors to list, with brief comments, the novels and stories that they felt were Nebula Award worthy before 1965, and for the years after that, comment on how the winners have been remembered and what stories have emerged as more memorable since the awards.

If the Nebula Awards Showcase 2010 had just included all the winners and nominees from the non-novel categories I would have been very happy with the collection.  It would have been a keeper, instead I’m going to leave it on the free table at work.

JWH – 5/31/10 

3 thoughts on “Nebula Awards Showcase 2010”

  1. Sounds like you should be the one editing the book! I say this without a hint of sarcasm. I’d trust you to put it together… On the other hand, reading some of the names authoring the essays it seems like it would have been hard for the editor to turn them down.

    1. Ignacio, I wondered if they included essays by named authors to help sell the book. Most of the nominees are not big names, but some of their stories were very exciting. I’d think showcasing the new blood would have better long term sales value. And that’s another reason to include the nominees instead of the essays – to promote new SFWA writers.

  2. That does sound quite disappointing. I too am not always in agreement with the winners and if I wanted to buy an award showcase volume I’d want to read all of the nominees in various categories, not just the one that took home the trophy.

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