March is Nebula month for me. The Nebula award nominees are announced at the end of February and voting for the awards closes on March 31st, and as a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, I get to vote. That means I have lots of stories to read.
I’ve been reading slowly this year, but I’ve finished all the short stories and have started into the novelettes. There were more short story nominees this year than last, and I found them to be a real mixed bag. Unlike a couple of years ago when one story just jumped out at me, none of this year’s nominees screamed for my vote. A few screamed the other way, however—I must admit I didn’t care for several of the stories and at least one left me wondering why it got nominated at all, but to each their own.
All of the stories were well-written, but three of them jumped out for me. Sarah Pinsker’s “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes” is a subtle but haunting story about a Canadian farmer who loses his arm in a combine accident, only to have an artificial one that thinks it’s a desolate highway in Colorado grafted on. If it sounds bizarre, it is, but the story is really about loss and finding a sense of place in the world, and it worked for me. Aliette de Bodard delivered a nice tale with “The Breath of War” but I didn’t find it nearly as strong or compelling as her Nebula winner “Immersion.” A decent read, nonetheless. Usman T. Malik’s “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” also provided an interesting character study of a Pakistani woman with an unusual heritage who has lost her family in the war on terror. A mysterious but moving story that I recommend to readers looking for something a little different.
I think I know which story will get my vote this year, but I’m going to let the nominees stew for a while as I continue to read the novelettes. I have about two weeks until the ballot deadline, and a lot of reading to finish (and I hope some writing, too).