NEBULA AWARDS SHOWCASE 2011, ed. by Kevin J. Anderson. TOR (www.tor.com), 2011, 412 pp., $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-2842-7
In the past, many of the Nebula Award anthologies from other publishers were filled with a lot of essays and recollections, with few stories.
But this time the opposite is true.
Anderson has done a fantastic job of compiling the best SF/Fantasy/Speculative Fiction/Slipstream/Alternate History published from the past year – this could be the best Nebula Awards volume yet published.
Here are a few of the best:
“I Remember the Future” by Michael A. Burstein. SF pulp writer Abraham Beard considers himself one of the founding fathers of the Golden Age of SF, right up there with Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov. Living in the realities of post-Apollo, post-space-travel America in a small house in Queens, Beard lives only to regret having to spend too much time writing, neglecting his daughter, Emma, who reluctantly decides to visit him (and very infrequently). Beard wonders why the future, what used to appear so bright and promising and full of wonder and awe, watching mankind reach out to other worlds, other civilizations – becomes nothing but a hack writer’s foggy ideal, punished by the hardcore realities of a lost space program, of nations looking more to the mistakes of the past than speculations of the future. So what went wrong? Why has the future been abandoned? Or has it, really?
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh. Mira finds herself in some type of cryogenic crypt, frozen since her death in a car accident, revived by visitors at the dating center. Guys wanting a companion have the option to pay to revive her for marriage, or whatever. But many visitors want to talk to her, and one would love to revive her but can’t afford the fee. Fortunately, Mira’s love transcends the decades she spends frozen and awaiting revival – and how she makes her way up from the sleep of death is certainly memorable.
“Spar” by Kij Johnson. A spacewrecked survivor is intimately tied to an alien, trying to survive until rescue arrives.
In NEBULA AWARDS SHOWCASE 2011, a tribute to SFWA Author Emeritus Neal Barrett Jr. comes with heartfelt praise by Joe R. Lansdale. Includes is the story by Barrett, “Getting Dark.”
“The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi. LiveTrack IV, a news service of the Internet maelstrom, is desperate, like all Internet news sites, for page views. However, their journalist Ong prefers “spinach reading” or material that is vital, far-reaching, with great impact on people (stories about the environment or changing economic climates or both), stories that may help people save the planet. Unfortunately, Ong’s managing editor, Janice, needs him to do some really hardcore journalism, some real sensationalism. So Ong travels to interview the superstar performer Kulaap – and the paparazzi follow. Ong eventually realizes the insanity of his role in this “journalism” to garner higher page views and learns to do the right thing.
“I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said” by Richard Bowes. This is a writer’s “speculative fiction/memoir” of his beliefs in sickness, death, dying, and dreams – or what substitutes for them – and pays homage to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, a victim itself of a more modernized, cost-accounted society. It’s about many things, including unexpected friendships, our persistent dependence on others, the essential emotional guiding principles of dream sleep, and how illness and pain can forever alter a person’s personality.
“Divining Light” by Ted Kosmatka. Quantum physics, in particular the experiment that proves how HUMAN observation can affect an actual outcome, takes center stage in this story. But why human? Why do we as humans exact such a toll on the very structure of reality?
“A Memory of Wind” by Rachel Swirsky. This is a fictional narrative of Euripides’ Iphigenia, the daughter of King Agamemnon from the Greek myth. This is NOT told from the King’s perspective, who must ritually sacrifice his daughter to the gods to ensure that a wind will come along in time to drive his warships toward Troy. Instead, it is from Iphigenia’s point of view – knowing she was selected to die and her account of the helplessness of her predicament.
The SFWA Grand Master Award was presented to Joe Haldeman. Haldeman provides his “space bar” story, “A !Tangled Web,” inspiration derived from the Cantina scene from the original “Star Wars” movie.
Included are the Rhysling Award winners for best poetry. I liked the haunting “Search” by Geoffrey A. Landis.