Tuesday , February 20 2024
This anthology presents the winning stories and the best of the finalists for the Nebula Awards for 2014.

Book Review: ‘Nebula Awards Showcase 2014,’ Edited by Kij Johnson

Every year since 1966, The Nebula Awards Showcase has presented the award winning and nominated stories, novellas and poems for the Nebula Awards, which are presented by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America®. While Mike Resnick is the chair of the anthology committee, a different editor is chosen each time. This year’s editor is Kij Johnson, author of three books and and associate director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas.

Last year the collection was all about “high concept,” which may be defined as an idea that  is easy to pitch and can be explained in a sentence or two.  The emphasis was on being different. For the most part this reviewer found most of  the stories disappointing and in many cases not much like science fiction at all.

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014
Nebula Awards Showcase 2014

This year is much better.  There is not a story in the bunch that is not engaging to the reader. I personally am not fond of excerpts but I understand the necessity of including the one from  Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312.  After all, one could hardly include the whole novel. It was an intriguing beginning and may hook readers enough to lead them to buy the book.

On the other hand, the anthology does include the 110-page novella After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress, a very intriguing story that takes place both in the near-present and in the future and explores what happens when the world is all but destroyed.

Another favorite in the collection is by new Grand Master Gene Wolfe. The Grand Master is a lifetime achievement award and Wolfe certainly has earned it. The story he selected to represent his work in the anthology is “Christmas Inn,” and it has the layers of meaning in a deceptively straight-forward narrative that one expects from Wolfe.

The winning novelette, “Close Encounters,”  by Andy Duncan, along with the winning short story, “Immersion,” by Aliette de Boudard, are fresh and presented unexpected perspectives. Two other short stories which were finalists are “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” by Ken Liu and Cat Rambo’s “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain”and are also not likely to be like any stories you have read before.

In addition to these entries, the anthology includes two essays about Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman and Michael Dirda and several poems which won specialty awards.

This year’s showcase seems to have an underlying theme about communication and responsibility. Whether this was intentional or not, the message is a pertinent one, and this year’s selections are enjoyable and meaningful.  This is an excellent book for lovers of science fiction.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.

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