According to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website, the Nebula Awards are “voted on, and presented by, active members of” their organization. The first awards in 1966 were given to stories released in 1965, the same year the group was founded by Damon Knight. The winning work and some of the nominees have been collected in anthologies ever since.
Showcase 2012 has been edited by past Nebula winners James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. In their introduction, Kelly provides a brief history of the awards, revealing how they have changed over the years and become more inclusive, honoring more than science fiction and male writers. This collection includes winners for Short Story (a tie between Harlan Ellison, SFWA Grand Master and the first ever winner in this category, for “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” and Kij Johnson for “Ponies”), Novelette (Eric James Stone for “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made), and Novella (Rachel Swirsky for “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window”). There’s also an excerpt from the winning Novel (Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear) and assorted nominees, though how they chose those nominees included is not made clear.
The stories throughout the book transport readers to different locations, from Venus in Geoff Landis’ “The Sultan of the Clouds” to “400,000 miles under the surface of the sun” in “That Leviathan…”, and an alternative timeline where the Aztec culture made its way into the 20th century and helped lead Mexico into becoming a global empire in Aliette de Bodard’s “The Jaguar House, In Shadow.”
Though not a voting member, I thought I could break the Short Story tie, but I am unable as they are both powerful and compelling. “Ponies” is a gut-wrenching tale about girls growing up and the dire lengths required to fit in. “A Tiny Man” is much more than interesting as the story about a scientist and his creation explores an individual dealing with society and God.
The editors are also sure to state in the introduction, “In our opinion, these are some of the very best stories of 2011.” Their majority of their peers in the SFWA would agree and in my opinion they are certainly well-crafted, engaging stories. However, there are the three poems included, which have been honored by the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and I was unable to connect with any of them. But don’t let that stop you from exploring this book.