Nebula Award


The Tea Master and the Detective: A Holmesian mystery in an Asian space habitat

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

The Tea Master and the Detective (2018), a novella nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo awards, is a delightful revisiting of the legendary Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson ... if both were Asian women, and Watson was a genetically modified human that is the brains and heart of a transport warship. It’s set in Aliette de Bodard’s UNIVERSE OF XUYA ― also nominated for a Hugo for Best Series ― a “timeline where Asia became dominant, and where the space age has Confucian galactic empires of Vietnamese and Chinese inspiration,” per the author’s website.

The Shadow’s Child, a mindship, is suffering... Read More

SHORTS: Clark, Wijeratne & Virdi, Harrow, Iriarte

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. This week's column features more of the 2018 Nebula award-nominated novelettes and short stories.

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djeli Clark (Feb 2018, free at Fireside magazine). 2018 NEBULA AWARD WINNER, 2019 LOCUS AWARD WINNER (short story)

P. Djeli Clark takes the historical idea of George Washington’s teeth (not wooden, as lore has it) and creates around them a series of vignettes detailing, as the title tells us, the “nine Negro teeth” that made up his set. Each brief vignette tells us a bit about the slave from whom the tooth came, how they came to be in Washington’s servitud... Read More

BINTI: The Complete Trilogy: Diverse opinions for a story of diversity

Editor's note: BINTI was originally published in three separate novellas but has recently been released in a complete trilogy. We've combined all of our new and previous BINTI reviews in this post.

BINTI: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor

As Binti, a mathematically brilliant, 16 year old member of the African Himba tribe, sneaks away from her home in the dead of night, I felt almost as much anticipation as Binti herself. Binti has decided, against massive family pressure, to accept a full-ride scholarship to the renowned Oomza University on a planet named ― wait for it ― Oomza Uni. (Perhaps the university sprawls across the entire planet? Certainly it covers several cities many miles apart.) Himba tribe members are technically advanced but socially isolated from other people, and Binti’s breaking away from her tribe evidences her courage, but leaves her isolated, an outsider.
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The Calculating Stars: A fight for the right to go into space

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Elma York has a PhD in physics, and her husband has one in engineering. They are enjoying a much-deserved weekend getaway in the Poconos in 1952 when a huge meteorite destroys Washington DC and much of the North American eastern seaboard. Experts fear the aftermath will create an extinction-level event, and this accelerates the race to the stars. Elma has a front row seat, but she wants more; she wants to go into space.

2018’s The Calculating Stars is the first novel of Mary Robinette Kowal’s LADY ASTRONAUT series. Kowal has written two short stories, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” and “We Interrupt this Broadcast” set in this world, but in this book, th... Read More

American Gods: Mixed opinions

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is a bad land for Gods... The old gods are ignored. The new gods are as quickly taken up as they are abandoned, cast aside for the next big thing. Either you've been forgotten, or you're scared you're going to be rendered obsolete, or maybe you're just getting tired of existing on the whims of people.

Shadow, just out of prison and with nothing to go home to, is hired to be Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard as he travels around America to warn all the other incarnations of gods, legends, and myths, that “a storm is coming.” There's going to be a battle between the old gods who were brought to melting pot America by their faithful followers generations ago, and the new gods of technology, convenience, and individuality.

That's the premise of Neil Gaiman's American Gods and it's just crackling with promise! But... Read More

Children of Blood and Bone: A familiar story raised up by its theme and setting

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone (2018) and the first of the LEGACY OF ORISHA series, is in many ways a typical debut YA novel that can feel a bit rote. On the other hand, its setting and stark presentation of theme make it stand out more than a little from the other such YA novels and add an importance to it that makes it well worth recommending.

Long ago in Orisha the maji wielded great power, but then the King (Saran) found a way to strip magic from them and commenced a great slaughter, though he did not kill those younger than thirteen (“diviners”, marked by their white hair) who had not yet come into their power (and now never would). Zélie is a diviner whose mother was murdered before her eyes when she was six. Since “The Raid,” Zélie’s people, referred to as “maggots,” have been oppr... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: The 2017 Nebula Awards: Novelettes, Short Stories, YA

This year’s Nebula conference (May 17-20) will be held in Pittsburgh, and the 2017 Nebula Awards will be announced on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

We talked about the nominees for Best Novel and Best Novella last week.

Now let's talk about the finalists for Best Novelette, Best Short Story, and the Andre Norton Award for YA SFF.

Here they are. Click the links to read our reviews and get the links to the stories:

BEST NOVELETTE:

“Dirty Old Town” by Richard Bowes, published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
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All Systems Red: The adventures of an introverted killing machine

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The narrator of All Systems Red (2017), the 2017 Nebula award-winning novella by Martha Wells, is a once-nameless cyborg security unit or SecUnit that has given itself the name Murderbot (for reasons disclosed midway through the story). Using its own unprecedented and highly unauthorized initiative, Murderbot has hacked the governor module software that controls its actions and obligates it to be obedient. But instead of going on a killing spree, as one might expect given the name it adopted, Murderbot elects to spend its spare hours watching countless hours of video entertainment and trying not to interact more than is necessary with the group of eight humans that it’s responsible for protecting, a survey group of eight scientists called PreservationAux that is exploring the natural resources o... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: The 2017 Nebula Awards: Novels & Novellas

This year’s Nebula conference (May 17-20) will be held in Pittsburgh, and the 2017 Nebula Awards will be announced on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

Here are the finalists. Click the links to read our reviews:

BEST NOVEL:

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory, published by Knopf
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly, Tor
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by  Read More

Borders of Infinity: Three important stories about Miles

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold (contains the novellas “The Mountains of Mourning,” “Labyrinth,” “The Borders of Infinity”)

Borders of Infinity has a different structure than the earlier VORKOSIGAN books. It’s actually three previously published novellas with a frame story. Simon Illyan, head of Imperial Security, is visiting Miles while he’s recuperating in the hospital after a surgery for bone replacements. Knowing that the government will start asking questions, Simon needs Miles to justify three large vague items in his expense reports. When Miles protests, Simon explains that because he’s the prime minister’s son, Miles must avoid even the appearance of shady accounting practices. And so Miles explains each item and thus we get the stories in the novellas “The Mountains of Mourning,” originally published in Analog in May 1989, “Labyrinth,” (Analog, August 1989) and “The Border... Read More

The Only Harmless Great Thing: An imaginative work of social fiction

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing (2018) is a lyrical, often moving, and sometimes searing novella that sets itself in an alternate reality that entangles two historical events: the public electrocution of Topsy the elephant at Coney Island in 1903 and the “Radium Girls” scandal in the early 1900s. That the two events were not simultaneous as in the novella is only part of the “alternate” part of this alternate reality. More central to the plot is the fact that elephants in this world are sentient.

The plot itself, which has two time strands, is relatively simple. In the early strand, Regan, a young radium girl already dying from the radiation she’s been exposed to in her job painting watch dials, trains a young elephant, Topsy, to replace her, both of them knowing what the end result will be. Topsy was picked up c... Read More

Best of SFM 2017

Best of For our New Year's Day SHORTS column, we’re listing (in alphabetical order) our favorite short fiction works, both old and new, that we reviewed in our 2017 SHORTS columns and rated 4.5 or 5 stars. The title links are to the original, full SHORTS review.

Alexandria” by Monica Byrne (2017, Fantasy & Science Fiction Jan/Feb 2017 issue): Byrne’s details paint a full, three-dimensional picture of a marriage; a husband who is not physically demonstrative in public, in-laws who never set aside their suspicions of him, and the love Keiji and Beth feel for each other. I was expecting an interesting story with a lighthouse at its center; I got a powerful meditation on the nature of love.



... Read More

The Stone Sky: An Earth-shattering finale

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The climactic conclusion to N.K. Jemisin’s THE BROKEN EARTH trilogy, The Stone Sky (2017), has expectations erupting into the stratosphere since both the previous books, The Fifth Season (2015) and The Obelisk Gate (2016), captured the Hugo Awards for Best SF Novels of 2015 and 2016, and these wins were well deserved. Having just finished it, I think THE BROKEN EARTH trilogy is one of the most intelligent, emotionally-wrenching, and relevant SF epics in the last few decades. So any accolades it gets from fans, reviewers, and fellow authors would be fully justified. If you ... Read More

Every Heart a Doorway: Four takes on this Nebula winner

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

It seems like there are many tales around today that strive to explain the ‘after’ in ‘happily ever after’, with varied results. Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway is one such story that had me riveted from the first. This novella appears to be the first in a plan for more stories in this world, and as an introduction it does an excellent job.

Every Heart a Doorway concerns the lives of those girls and boys (but mostly girls, as explained in the novella) who found passageways to other worlds and then came back again. These are your Alices and Dorothys, young people who found and were found by worlds that wanted them. Specifically, this novella concerns those children and teens who came back to our reality without necessarily wanting t... Read More

SHORTS: Anders, Nagata, Howard, McGuire, Clarke

After a few weeks' vacation, SHORTS returns to continue exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about. 


“As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders (2014, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Marisol Guzmán, a pre-med student who decided that being a doctor was a better career choice than a playwright, is saved from the end of the world only because she’s housecleaning a mansion when massive earthquakes began. She ran into ... Read More

SHORTS: de Bodard, Smith, Buckell, Steele, Pinsker, Barnett

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.

The Waiting Stars by Aliette de Bodard (2013, free to read online or download on author’s website). 2013 Nebula award winner and 2014 Hugo award nominee (novelette)

In this 2013 Nebula award-winning story, set in the 22nd century, Aliette de Bodard weaves together two narratives that at first seem unconnected but in the end, of course, are. The first concerns a woman’s exploration of a derelict spaceship in a graveyard of spaceships in an isolated corner of space controlled by the Outsiders. Lan Nhen’s Vietnamese-descended people build Mind-ships, spaceships powered by ... Read More

Rendezvous with Rama: Multi-award winner with controversial ending

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

In 2131, humans are minding their own business when a large object thought to be an asteroid is detected at the edge of our solar system. As it gets closer to Earth it is photographed and found to be unnatural — obviously an alien spaceship. A team of scientists is sent to meet the ship dubbed “Rama” and to make our first contact with an alien species. When they get there, they find Rama uninhabited and they set out to discover all they can about the aliens who must have launched it. What are they like and what do they want with us?

As Robert J. Sawyer mentions in the introduction the audio version I listened to, Arthur C. Clarke’s strength is not his characterization — it’s pathetic — but that’s okay becau... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: The 2016 Nebula Awards

This year’s Nebula conference (May 18-21) will be held in Pittsburgh, and the 2016 Nebula Awards will be announced on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

As with the Hugo finalists, there are some unexpected names, some shocking omissions, and the authors we would expect; for instance, I expected to see Jemisin, but I’d also expect to see Dexter Palmer’s Version Control on the finalists list. Here are the finalists. Click the links to read our reviews:

BEST NOVEL:

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Borderline by Mishell Baker
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Stories of Your Life and Others: Eight carefully crafted stories

Stories of Your Life: And Others by Ted Chiang

In his review of Ted Chiang’s brilliant short story collection Stories of Your Life and Others (2002) in The Guardian, China Miéville mentions the “humane intelligence [...] that makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang’s calm passion.” The oxymoron “calm passion” is an insightful and ingenious way to describe these stories because of the way it hints at their deft melding of the most solid of hard science fiction concepts with an often surprisingly gentle, humane touch. There’s no other author I can think of who can inject such a level of emotional... Read More

All the Birds in the Sky: A likeable fable about magic and science

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders, is a likeable book. The writing is fluent, filled with grace notes, witty observations and jokes that poke fun, but gently, at certain subcultures and stereotypes — mostly, the ones we all enjoy mocking from time to time.

Furthermore, in her Afterword, Anders says that if you don’t understand the story, she will come to your house and “act the whole thing out for you. Maybe with origami finger puppets.” So there’s that.

All the Birds in the Sky is one of small, newish category of fiction, one I don’t have a label for. It includes Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and The Word Exchange by Read More

Slow River: A must-read

Slow River by Nicola Griffith

Slow River (1995) is Nicola Griffith's second novel and the third one by her I've read. Like her debut Ammonite (1992), it attracted quite a bit of attention. The novel won a Nebula Award in 1996 and has made it into the Gollancz SF Masterworks series. I enjoyed both Hild (2013) and Ammonite an awful lot so this book ended up on the to-read stack right after finishing Ammonite. I didn't know it when I got it, but Slow River has quite a bit of environmental science in it. If I had known earlier this might have been the more obvious starting point ... Read More

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union: How can one resist?

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is (breathe in) an alternate history science fiction noir police procedural that won plaudits from the literary mainstream as well as several top honors from the science fiction community (breathe out).

There’s a great deal going on, but perhaps it’s best to introduce the setting. In this alternate history, America created a temporary settlement for Jews in Sitka, Alaska. Today, the Sitka Jews are facing Reversion, which means that mill... Read More

SHORTS: Chiang, Liu, Sanderson, Kinney, Seybold

Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 


“Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (1998, originally anthologized in Starlight 2, reprinted in Stories of Your Life and Others). 2000 Nebula award winner (novella) and 1999 Sturgeon award winner.

Being more of a fantasy lover than a sci-fi fan, I still hadn’t read the short-story superstar Ted Chiang. Keen to see what I’ve been missing, and possibly throwing myself in at the deep end, I read “Story of Your Life.” Boy, what an experience it... Read More

The Dispossessed: Not simply an anarchist utopia/capitalist dystopia

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

The Dispossessed is a perfectly achieved thought experiment, perhaps Ursula K. Le Guin’s greatest achievement, but there is little I can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently, forcefully, thoroughly, or knowledgeably by other reviewers. It transcends genre as a Novel of Ideas. It explores with great intelligence anarchism-socialism vs capitalism; freedom/slavery in terms of politics, economics, society, intellectual endeavor, and personal relationships; the struggle to perfect a scientific theory that unifies time and space; whether human nature inevitably corrupts all political ideals; whether political utopias can ever be achieved to a meaningful degree; whether only hardship and privation can support socialist sentiment; and whether we must therefore settle for capitalism and the pur... Read More

SHORTS: Dicken, Martin, Sturgeon, Simak, Garcia-Rosas, Vonnegut

Here are a few short stories we've recently read and listened to that we wanted you to know about. This week's selection includes some excellent classic tales.


“The Uncarved Heart” by Evan Dicken (Nov. 2016, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue, 0.99£ UK magazine issue)
It’s hard to tell what someone is really made of, at least until you crack them open. Some have hearts fragile as spun glass, quick to break and impossible to p... Read More