I’ve finished the seven short stories nominated for the 2012 Nebula Award (you can find links to all of them here). They cover an impressive range of topics and styles. Something that struck me more with this year’s nominees than it did with last year’s was the literary bent of all these tales (and I don’t mean “literary” as a bad word here). These are not pulp science fiction or cliché high fantasy. These stories are rich in structure, language, setting, and most prominently character.
I can appreciate the craft that went into each story, but I found that not all of them were for me. While I’ve not made my final decision on which story will get my Nebula vote, I did find Aliette de Bodard’s “Immersion” particularly impressive. This should come as no surprise to speculative fiction readers because she’s been producing top-notch short fiction for several years now. In “Immersion” Ms. de Bodard has taken a very simple scene and layered on so much meaning, suppress conflict, and emotion that it is simply stunning to behold. A simple negotiation for a banquet becomes an exploration of cultural domination, colonization, and decolonization of both a society and an individual. It also has the most effective use of 2nd-person point of view I’ve ever seen. I simply could not put this one down, and that’s saying a lot for me. I also enjoyed Tom Crosshill’s “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes” and Leah Cypess’ “Nanny’s Day.” Each has incredible character depth and emotion range.
If you haven’t read the nominees yet, you’re missing out some excellent stories and fine examples of what speculative fiction can be. While I suspect not all of them will appeal to any single reader, all are worthy of your time.