2009 Nebula Awards Ballot

It’s here; congratulations to all the nominees, even the ones I’m about to say I personally am not very excited about!

Now, category by category:

Best Short Story

  • Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela,” Saladin Ahmed (Clockwork Phoenix 2, Norilana Press, Jul09)
  • “I Remember the Future,” Michael A. Burstein (I Remember the Future, Apex Press, Nov08)
  • Non-Zero Probabilities,” N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld, Nov09)
  • Spar,” Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct09)
  • Going Deep,” James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jun09)
  • Bridesicle,” Will McIntosh (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jan09; pdf link)

Oh joy, a Michael A Burstein story to read (assuming it gets made available online EDIT: doesn’t look like it will be). Other than that, strikes me as a solid list. “Bridesicle” is probably my favourite of McIntosh’s stories to date, and if “Non-Zero Probabilities” struck me as a little thin, it’s executed well enough. “Spar” is probably the best of the ones I’ve read, although I don’t love it as others do.

Best Novelette

A very crunchy selection, although has that slightly schizophrenic can’t-decide-what-year-it-is thing going on. “The Gambler” was probably my single favourite piece of Hugo-nominated fiction last year, so I’m rooting for that. Good to see Foster’s story, which is of course also on the BSFA Award ballot, and “Divining Light”, which we discussed here. I’d have quite strongly preferred to see “Eros, Philia, Agape” on the ballot in place of “A Memory of Wind”, but the latter is by no means a bad story. Haven’t read the Bishop or Bowes.

Best Novella

  • The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, Jun09)
  • Arkfall,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep09)
  • Act One,” Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Mar09; pdf link)
  • Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon, Feb09)
  • Sublimation Angels,” Jason Sanford (Interzone, Oct09)
  • The God Engines, John Scalzi ( Subterranean Press, Dec09)

Eh. I like “Sublimation Angels“, but am less than whelmed by either the Kress or Gilman stories, and am sceptical of the Morrow. I’m intrigued by The God Engines, however.

Best Novel
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade, Sep09)
The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)
Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)
The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey, May09)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)

My heart says Bacigalupi, and damn the naysayers; my head thinks The City & The City is probably going to be a Hugo-and-Nebula-winner by the end of the year.

Bradbury Award for excellence in screenwriting

  • Star Trek, JJ Abrams (Paramount, May09)
  • District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug09)
  • Avatar, James Cameron (Fox, Dec 09)
  • Moon, Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker (Sony, Jun09)
  • Up, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar, May09)
  • Coraline, Henry Selick (Laika/Focus Feb09)

If Abrams wins, I will cry. Actually, if pretty much anyone other than Jones/Parker wins, I will sulk, though Up would be acceptable.

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Hotel Under the Sand, Kage Baker (Tachyon, Jul09)
  • Ice, Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster, Oct09)
  • Ash, Malinda Lo (Little, Brown and Company, Sep09)
  • Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends, Jul09)
  • Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi (Tor Aug08)
  • When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, Jun09)
  • Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon, Oct09)

    Eight is pushing it for a shortlist, isn’t it? Stil, several books here I’d like to get around to reading, so I’m not complaining too much. I will say, though, that I feel a rash of tweets like this just before nominations closed, which may have been poorly worded but which as they stand look like they were just trying to drum up votes irrespective of whether the voter had read the book or not, devalue Baker’s nomination a bit. And that’s a shame.

    37 thoughts on “2009 Nebula Awards Ballot

    1. I thought Coraline was pretty well done, actually. Surprisingly so, since I usually do not like Gaiman’s work much. (Well, I mean, it’s okay, generally, but I don’t understand why it’s beloved rather than beliked.)

    2. I feel pretty much the same about Gaiman’s work, though I do like Coraline. And yet, as I should have noted in the post, Coraline is the one film on the ballot I haven’t seen. A contradiction am I.

    3. It’s really dismaying that nothing from Jonathan Strahan’s Eclipse Three or from The New Space Opera 2, edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan, was nominated.

      “Arkfall” was published in 2008, not 2009.

      “Going Deep” was listed as a novelette in Asimov’s, not a short story.

    4. I bet The City and the City wins one of the two biggies. I would have a hard time voting for it though, because it didn’t work very well as crime fiction, though a great thought experiment and speculative writing. So overall I liked it but didn’t love it. But the Hugo and Nebula are for SFF writing, so maybe I shouldn’t consider how flat the mystery/noir elements were.

      (That’s all supposing I was a voter in any of these awards.)

    5. Peter: There were certainly stories in those books I think it would have been glad to see on the ballot. On the other hand, even so it’s drawing from a pretty diverse range of publications. And presumably “Going Deep” is one of those on-the-border-of-wordcount-limit stories? Or Asimov’s just made an error. The Locus Recommended Reading list lists it as a short.

      King Rat: My issues with TC&TC are different to and more idiosyncratic than yours, but I think you have to consider the whole package.

    6. Niall, in regards to the 8 Norton Award nominations, I believe they try to limit it to 6, but if there are tied votes for the last slot, they have to take all those that are tied. I think that’s why there are 8 this year.

    7. With regards to the Norton Award nominations, the Norton Jury added works to the nominees determined by the vote of the membership. (I’m on the jury, but I’m not sure to what extent we are allowed to talk about what we did to come up with the final ballot).
      I believe the Norton Award was typically short of nominees (hence the reason the jury was set up), but this wasn’t the case this year.

    8. I’m very happy to see “Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage,” by Michael Bishop. I was surprised that it didn’t get more attention back in 2008–I found it very powerful.

      Quite the year for staccato/noir prose, with “City & City” and “Finch” both making the Nebula novel list. I wish I liked that style better, but I found C&C a bit of a slog because of it, and have had a hard time starting “Finch” after reading the first chapter. De gustibus, of course.

      Right now I’d vote for “Love We Share” for novel, but I haven’t read “Windup Girl,” “Boneshaker” or “Flesh and Fire” yet.

    9. My word count for “Going Deep” is 6600, probably an electronic count (I usually read Asimov’s in advance in .pdf format). As such, clearly a short story, not even eligible to be bounced to the novelette category. I don’t know why the magazine listed it as a novelette — probably just a mistake.

      It seems a decent list to me. I’m unsure about the novellas — I didn’t dislike “Arkfall”, but I wouldn’t call it award-worthy. I’d say the same about “Sublimation Angels”, which I found fascinating until an overly rushed ending, and “Act One”, which I thought solid but not exceptional. I haven’t read the Morrow or the Scalzi — I’d particularly like to see the latter! — and, again, I enjoyed Baker’s novella, but don’t see it as award-worthy.

      So, really, the novella list isn’t all that good! But it’s not awful, either.

      In novelette, the case is similar but different. Every story is really quite interesting, but none pushed all my buttons. I will really have to reread Eugie Foster’s story — so many people loved it so much, and I found it an intriguing story that didn’t come off. Which is the sort of piece that might prove much better on a new look. All the others feel similar to me — impressive as heck in many ways, very interesting, very ambitious — but none quite burst through to be my favorites. — for example, like you, Niall, I’d MUCH prefer to have seen “Eros, Philia, Agape” on the list to “A Memory of Wind”, though that is a fine piece.

      And as for short story, well, I haven’t read Burstein’s story. So I suppose it MIGHT be really good. But experience suggests not. I’ve enjoyed Saladin Ahmed’s work to date, but I’d place him in the category of a very promising new writer who will be doing Nebula work in a couple of years, rather than one who is quite there yet. I’d endorse what Niall says about “Non-Zero Probabilities” — well enough executed but a bit thin.

      “Spar” is awfully impressive, but hard for me to like. Which is by intention, I believe. So I can support it winning. And I’d be happy enough with “Bridesicle”, which I also quite liked.

      I have no comment on the novels — haven’t read any. Bad me. I will say that in the YA category I enjoyed The House Beneath the Sand, and I think it may very well have been nominated anyway, without Baker’s passing. The thing about it is that it’s really middle-grade, while the rest, as far as I know, are “YA”. A subtle difference, perhaps, but a real one. The only other one I’ve read is Leviathan, which I loved.

    10. Chris, Aliette: Thanks. There was a similar decision about a tie to be made with this year’s BSFA Best Novel ballot, except that that went with the shorter list. Arguments to be made both ways, I suspect.

      Lois: Indeed, I just copied and pasted.

      Karen: Whereas I haven’t read Love We Share… (or Boneshaker, but I feel less urge to get to that.)

      Rich: I know what you mean about the novelette list; “Divining Light” has that impressive-but-not-quite quality for me, at this point. On “Eros, Philia, Agape”, maybe we’re just science fiction-preferring philistines …

      I’m quite willing to believe The House Beneath the Sand deserves its nomination on merit; some of the campaigning for it just left a bad taste in my mouth, is all.

      Any thoughts on how good an indication this ballot might be of potential Hugo nominees? I have to say that field still feels pretty open to me at the moment. The City & The City is probably the closest thing to a sure thing, but other than that I don’t know.

    11. The Clarke Award shortlist has had 8 novels on it at least twice. As I recall from 91, there were passionate advocates for all eight books, leading to the expanded list. This was later used to vilify the judges by an influential critic who disagreed with the eventual winner. I hope people look at the longer Norton list as an indication of strength rather than jury failings.

    12. I thought Coraline was pretty well done, actually.

      Everything I liked about Coraline was to do with the production and not the (rather thin) script.

      And JJ Abrams didn’t write Star Trek, the credit should be to Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Although, anything other than a win for Moon or Up would be a travesty.

    13. “Any thoughts on how good an indication this ballot might be of potential Hugo nominees? I have to say that field still feels pretty open to me at the moment. The City & The City is probably the closest thing to a sure thing, but other than that I don’t know.”

      Barzak’s book isn’t eligible for this year’s Hugo, and I doubt there is much overlap between Gilman readers and worldcon fans. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

      Bacigalupi, Miéville, Priest, and VanderMeer are all possibilities, though they are facing off against Kim Stanley Robinson, Charles Stross, and Robert Charles Wilson, all of which usually have strong support from worldcon voters. Cory Doctorow also put out a novel in 2009, and he did very well against Gaiman for last year’s Hugo, and his book has high visibility since you can read it online for free.

    14. Greyweather: indeed. Thing is, you can make arguments against almost all of those contenders — Robinson appeared so very late (in the US), Stross is the Merchant Princes, which hasn’t done that well in Hugo noms historically, Makers hasn’t had nearly as much positive buzz as Little Brother. I don’t know whether the Bacigalupi and Vandermeer will have been widely-enough read, and I don’t know whether Priest is popular enough among Hugo voters. Valente’s Palimpsest should in theory also be a contender, and I wouldn’t rule out Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. Don’t get me wrong, I like the uncertainty! It’s just very different to the situation last year.

    15. I’m not convinced by the joke in the title of the Saladin Ahmed story – it spoils the story’s authenticity. Didn’t like the Johnson when I first read it. Nor the Sanford or the Baker. I did like the Kosmatka and Bacigalupi, though.

    16. I agree with Niall. I can’t see Stross getting a nod this year. I say this despite having a good deal of fondness for his Merchant Princes series.

      Yes, it falls foul of the kinks in Stross’ creative output (his refusal to write action scenes combined with a fondness for literary forms that tend to demand quite physical resolutions to problems) AND the last couple of books have given the vague impression that he has no idea where the series is going (or if he does that he’s treading water in order to pad out the series) AND there are his continuing problems of univocality and failure to characterise properly, BUT despite these failings there’s a lot to like in them. Certainly more than in his Laundry-based output.

      I’d certainly place the first couple of Merchant Prince novels above recent stuff like Halting State, Saturn’s Children or older stuff like the two Eschaton novels.

    17. Oops…

      What I was going to add was that while I think that a proper critical appraisal of Stross’ literary career would undoubtedly place the Merchant Princes novels much further up the pecking order than current critical perspectives on Stross’s work (which tend to focus primarily on mainline SF), I can’t imagine that overdue ship suddenly sailing now.

    18. I agree with Jonathan: I enjoy the Merchant Princes far more than most of the rest of Stross’ work (Laundry novels notwithstanding), but it seems like the Hugo trend for Stross leans more to the SF side.

      Besides, as much as I enjoy the MP novels (and my mileage varies by book), I’m not sure I would put a single one of them on any year’s ballot. The third Laundry novel might have a shot for next year’s ballot, though.

      Priest and VanderMeer will both be on my Hugo ballot, we’ll see about Bacigalupi when I finish reading it. But, Bacagalupi and Priest are probably the two most likely to get Hugo nods from the novel list.

      I love this Nebula ballot. I’m sure I won’t agree with everything when I read it, and I agree with Niall that Swirsky’s other story should have made it, but there are going to be far better conversations for this year’s ballot than any in recent years. Much, much stronger, and the folks responsible for getting those rule changes in place should be commended for their work and this ballot is worth being proud of as the result.

      Niall: I’m not too crazy about the Morrow novella, but I like the diversity of sources that it represents.

    19. I haven’t read The Merchant Princes, I have to confess; one of those cases where the series got too big before I got started.


      there are going to be far better conversations for this year’s ballot than any in recent years

      I hope so. I do think the novel and Norton categories look strong.

      I’ll be interested to see whether any of the book-form novellas get made available online.

    20. The Morrow might. I’m skeptical about the SubPress offerings, but Nell Gwynne’s is sold out, so maaaaybe. Probably not for The God Engines, unless you’re a SFWA member. Happily, I bought a copy of Scalzi’s book.

    21. Surely the Merchant Princes series is as much SF as Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen or The Whenabouts of Burr?

    22. As much and as little, James. Purists in the Analog forum were recently carping at the inclusion of a John Hemry Otherwhen story in the April issue of the zine, as being fantasy not SF.

    23. Stross advertised The Merchant Princes books on usenet and such places, when first writing it, as his foray into the (presumably more commercial) Fat Fantasy market, but it quickly became clear that it is SF in the mode of, as noted, Piper’s stories.

      I have not yet warmed to the series — though I don’t dislike it — and I haven’t read the last volume or two. I would certainly rank the Eschaton books ahead of it. And perhaps Halting State. But when I get to reading the rest of it my views might change.

      I think Stross’s biggest single weakness is what Jonathan calls his “univocality”. It’s an engaging enough voice, and it has its uses, but it doesn’t work for everything, and shouldn’t be applied to every character. John Scalzi has a similar problem.

    24. I’d say the Merchant Princes series started decently but rapidly became overly formulaic and, in the last two books, very preachy politically. The narrative basically stops so the characters can exposit how amoral and ruthless the Dick Cheney in all but name is, how much more evil Washington politics are than even a feudal monarchy, how the ruling party would welcome a terrorist nuclear strike against them as providing justification for their exploitation and certainly not concerned with saving the lives of a few thousand civilians. There’s a way to meld strong political stances with a good story, and but this series is a textbook case of how not to do it. It’s not Little Brother levels of Anvilicious contrivance, but it’s not good. Would not recommend, it’s turned pretty bad.

      In relation to the actual list, I’m quite pleased to see the Bacigalupi and the Mieville, somewhat puzzled to see a work as unambitious and accepting of its own incoherence as Boneshaker there. Seems mostly strong overall, with some issues in the novellas, and an opportunity for the Nebula to either excel or shame itself with movies.

    25. So little love for The Love We Share Without Knowing in all these Nebula discussions. Hopefully this nomination will get more people to read the book. I know it doesn’t stand a very realistic chance of winning but I’ll certainly be rooting for it. (Though I’ll admit it might be better for a novel with heavier genre elements to win the award)

    26. “So little love for The Love We Share Without Knowing in all these Nebula discussions. Hopefully this nomination will get more people to read the book.”

      Me at least! Just got it from the library.

      Haven’t enjoyed Barzak in the past, though, so I’m probably not the best reader for this book either. OTOH, I’m itching to get to Finch…

    27. Amazing. I’ve read two books in the last umpteen decades, and both are nominated (Boneshaker, and Windup Girl).

      Not fair for me to judge based on reading just the two, but “Windup Girl” was, in my opinion, a very worthy book. “Boneshaker” by contrast was “merely” a good read.

    28. So little love for The Love We Share Without Knowing in all these Nebula discussions.

      I’m not a Nebula voter, but if I was I’d certainly consider Barzak’s novel, it was one of my favorite 2008 reads (after, FWIW, not having special feelings for either One for Sorrow or his story in Interfictions). On the other hand, the Mieville was one of my favorite 2009 reads. So indeed, I’m glad I am not a Nebula voter: I don’t think I could pick between them.

      (That’s one of the issues I have with awards: the idea that there is always a single “best” whatever in any given time period just seems conceptually odd to me.)

      I enjoyed Finch a great deal, too; VanderMeer does a nice job foregrounding a lot of elements that were in the earlier Ambergris stories and giving them thematic resolution. He takes a number of contemporary issues, symbols, sensations, and then jumbles them around so much that the book can’t be read as allegory, yet nevertheless feels true — which makes it meaningful. My main nitpick with the book is that it at times seemed to rest uneasily on its noir framework.

      I had a few of the other nominees lined up to read even before their nomination, starting with The Windup Girl

    29. “Haven’t enjoyed Barzak in the past, though, so I’m probably not the best reader for this book either.”

      I didn’t like Barzak’s first novel, One for Sorrow, enough to even finish it. In contrast, The Love We Share Without Knowing is a book that I consider to be a personal favorite, an absolute masterpiece. So, you might just like it Rachel.

    30. I really enjoyed Moon and rate it as a great SF movie, but the social commentry in District 9, the laughable moments which happen to the aliens which are directly derived from how the Black majority were treated by aparthied, is very strong for me.

      As one laughs at obsurd humour – it’s a harsh thought that the same thing really happened to real people.

      Obviously made me think a lot – reflect even. Good movie.


    31. Although, with District 9 there’s always the problematic and at points blatantly racist way that it represents the black populations, which undercuts some of the force of its message. Plus the fact that the writer apparently envisioned the ‘Prawns’ as actually mentally deficient, leaderless and helpless without a specialized caste being present. I’d take the movie as a demonstration of the problems with Fantastic Racism as a genre strategy, as well as its benefits. Well directed, well acted, some good moments and visually stunning–but I’d hold the main plot as more than a bit troubled, and the thematic cohesion a lot less than Moon.

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