The Nebula Awards showcases have been published annually since 1966 and include the winning and nominated short stories and novellas for the Nebula Awards, which are voted on by the members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. The Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 also contains an excerpt from the winning novel this year, Among Others by Joe Walton. This year’s editor is Catherine Asaro.
Obviously, these stories are well-written. Poorly written stories would never be nominated. But the most obvious trait in these selections is that almost all of them are depressing, sad, or at best, bittersweet. In many of them, the emphasis is on technology as it affects the lives of ordinary people, although the failure of these people’s lives may be due to more than just the technology itself.
For this reviewer, these stories are ultimately disappointing. It all depends on what you read science fiction and fantasy for. If you want to be entertained, to escape the ordinary, or engage in vicarious adventure, many of these stories will not fill your literary needs.
It’s not that I cannot appreciate a story that is about a dark future, but I do prefer at least a hint of a solution to the issues facing the protagonists or if not, at least, some engrossing action along the way to the ending.
There are exceptions to the doom and gloom. “Sauerkraut Station,” by Ferrett Steinmetz, is an exciting and satisfying space adventure with attractive and intrepid female lead characters. “Ray of Light” from Brad R. Torgensen, is a dystopian story that actually has a hopeful element. “The Sea King’s Second Bride” by C.S.E. Cooney is a marvelous long poem that takes a clever and amusing look at mythology.
Certainly, many of the other stories will stay in your memory long after you read them. In particular, “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu uses the story of a young man of mixed heritage who disdains his mother’s miraculous origami animals and his mother herself because they are different and he only wants to fit in. It is an amazing feat of writing, but it is definitely bittersweet, with the emphasis on the bitter.
Once again, it all depends on why you read science fiction and fantasy. If you are seeking thought-provoking and predominantly dark subject matter, that this is the anthology for you. Certainly, for the voting members of the SFWA. this is what they wanted this year. Pick it up and try it out. Perhaps you will find it ultimately more satisfying than this reader did.