Award Season is starting again, with the finalists for the 56th Annual Nebula Awards having just been announced. The full list of finalists can be found here.
Whilst the Hugo Awards are nominated and voted on by the public, the Nebula Awards are organized and awarded by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) association. Nominees and winners are chosen by the SFWA, so it is possible to look at it as the writer and critics choice as opposed to the public. The problem with this view, is that nominees are fairly consistent between both awards. In the 55 years that the Nebula Awards have been running, a winner of the Best Novel category has also been a winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel 25 times. The most recent such joint winner was The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, which was published in 2018. The awards both acknowledge works of equal quality. I feel the only noticeable difference in works nominated is that the Hugo’s may have a slight bias towards stories that are freely available online.
Since I haven’t been very up to date with my reading, the Nebula finalists list is the first real look at some of the books written last year that I need to go back and check out. Some, like P. Djèlí Clark’s Rig Shout and Nino Cipri’s Finna have been on my to read list for a while. (Of course they have, they are both Tor.com novellas.) Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic I had heard no hype for, but I saw the book out in the wild while shopping, and the blurb intrigued me. It’s about Noemí, a glamorous debutante who travels to a mysterious creepy house in rural Mexico to save her sister from an unknown doom. Seeing it on this list has made me more interested.
And of course there is Piranesi, the highly anticipated second novel by Susanna Clarke, the award winning author of Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I know what’s going to happen here. This book will be nominated for a Hugo, I’ll read it for my Hugo reviews and then I’ll love it and say how I should have read it earlier. I know there was a lot of interest about this book due to how long it has taken Clarke to bring out a second novel, and that it has received a lot of love and praise. I know that when I am forced to sit down and read it for this blog, it’s probably going to have a lot of things that really interest me. But for now and most of last year, the synopsis just didn’t excite me. Hype alone is not enough to make me read a book.
In the nominees for the Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction there are two books that I really want to read. Young Adult includes 30-something women right? The first is Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, a story about a young girl living in a more magical America using her powers to find the truth about her cousin’s murder. The book is illustrated by Rovina Cai, who has done some amazing work illustrating Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. I’ve been hearing about this book for a while, but haven’t come across a physical copy yet, which is how I’d rather read this one. Meanwhile, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking I have not heard of before, It’s written by T. Kingfisher (a pseudonym of Ursula Vernon) and is about a young girl who’s magic only works on bread. She’s cool with that, until a body shows up in the bakery she works at. It just sounds like a fun, crazy ride, and I love the angry little gingerbread warrior on the cover. Looks so cute.
But let’s jump back to Elatsoe for a sec. Last year, Time Magazine released a list of 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time. This list ended up being quite controversial for a number of reasons. A lot of reasons. One of the criticisms of the list was that the popular reception and influence on the fantasy genre were factors in considering which books made the list, and some commentators felt that a few of the books were just too recent to judge if they were going to have an impact on the genre or be remembered in years to come. I agree with this criticism, and felt it was wrong of the list to include two books released in the then current year. But, I am interested in seeing if those two books end up ‘earning’ their spot on the list, so I have been looking forward to seeing if they got nominated for any awards this year. Elatsoe was on this list, and along with some of the praise I’ve been hearing about it, I think it may be on it’s way to living up to the ‘best of all time label’. I’m interested to see what other awards it gets nominated for, and for reading it myself.
Award winners will be announced at the 2021 Nebula Conference Online, June 4 – 6. Which seems like a long-arse award ceremony.