Nebula Award


Red Mars: This is where we start again

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

When the First Hundred arrive on Mars, they find a beautiful red planet that’s all but untouched by humanity. What should they paint on this amazing canvas?

The question turns out to be very political, and the discussion of politics in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars perhaps begins with ecology. The relationship between people and their environment is introduced when the Martian settlers consider whether they should change the red planet to suit human needs. Ann Clayborne maintains that they should change Mars as little as possible. After all, science is about observation. Sax Russell, on the other hand, argues that “science is creation” and that they should begin terraforming Mars as rapidly as possible because it “adds life, the most beautiful system of all.” Sax’s argume... Read More

Man Plus: Puzzling and enjoyable

Man Plus by Frederik Pohl

In the 1970s Frederik Pohl produced a number of highly regarded science fiction novels. Man Plus, which earned a Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1976, shows its age just a bit but I still found it very much worth reading.

In the near future, as seen from the 1970s, we may well be there now, the world is in a pretty bad shape. The sheer size of the human population the earth has to support has put a strain on the resources available. Hunger is a serious problem, as are dictatorial regimes. The US finds itself increasingly alone as a bastion of democracy and capitalism. When a conflict with the Chinese threatens to get out of control and result in thermo-nuclear warfare, the US president is desperate to direct the attention of the public elsewhere. Thus NASA's program to create a man capable of surviving on the surface of Mars is born.

To make surviving the harsh cond... Read More

SFM: Amal El-Mohtar, Sam J. Miller, C.S.E. Cooney, Philip Pullman, Greg Bear, Catherynne Valente

Short Fiction Monday: Here are some of the stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. This week we continue focusing on 2015 Nebula-nominated short fiction, along with some other stories that caught our attention.



“Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar (2015, free on Lightspeed magazineKindle magazine issue), nominated for the 2015 Nebula award (short story)

Madeleine is in therapy after the death of her mother from Alzheimer’s. She and her therapist, Clarice, are discussing the loss of her mother and the odd side-effects from a clinical trial for an Alzheimer’s drug that Madeleine has taken part in. ... Read More

The Forever War: An SF treatment of Vietnam

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

William Mandella, a genius studying physics, has been drafted into the elite division of the United Nations Exploratory Force, which is fighting a seemingly never-ending war with the Taurans. After strenuous training with other elites on the Earth and in space, William and his colleagues are sent on various missions throughout the universe, traveling through black holes to get to each warfront. During each mission some of William’s friends die, but that’s expected. What’s surprising is that when he returns home, very little time has passed for him, but space-time relativity has caused many years to pass on Earth. Thus each time he comes back, he’s shocked by the changes that have occurred — changes in people he knows, changes in society, and technological advances which affect the progress of the war.

These changes are so drastic that M... Read More

Ancillary Justice: Doesn’t read like a first novel at all

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Breq used to be a spaceship, or at least a fragment of the spaceship known as Justice of Toren. The ship controlled innumerable human bodies, known variously as “ancillaries” to the people of the interstellar Radchaai Empire and as “corpse soldiers” to the cultures and planets the Empire has conquered. Those soldiers used to be regular, innocent human beings who, if sufficiently healthy, were slaved to one of the Radchaai ships, their personalities more or less overwritten to become part of one of the Empire’s many-bodied artificial intelligences.

But note: Breq “used” to be a spaceship. Now, she is just Breq, a single person with one body, but with memories of being both an immensely powerful artificial intelligence and its army of soldiers. When we meet Breq, at the start of Ancillary Justice, the spectacula... Read More

The Windup Girl: Mixed opinions

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

My Body is Not My Own…

Having just finished Paolo Bacigalupi’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel, I’m left rather bereft at how to describe, let alone review, The Windup Girl. I am not a big reader of science-fiction or dystopian thrillers, which means that no obvious comparisons come to mind, and the setting and tone of the novel are so unique (to me at least) that they almost defy description.

Set in a future Thailand where genetically engineered “megodonts” (elephants) provide manual labor and “cheshires” (cats) prowl the streets, the world’s population struggles against a bevy of diseases brought on by all the genetic tampering that’s been going on. Oil has long since run out, Chinese refugees flood the cities, the... Read More

SFM: Samuel R. Delany, Liu Cixin, Jeff VanderMeer, Kim Stanley Robinson

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

“Aye, and Gomorrah” by Samuel R. Delany (1967, free at Strange Horizons)

“Aye, and Gomorrah” was first published as the final story in the ground-breaking anthology Dangerous Visions (1967), edited by Harlan Ellison. It was also included in Samuel Delany's only major short-story collection Driftglass (1971) and an expanded edition titled Aye, and Gomorrah, and Other Stories (2003). Delany ... Read More

SFM: Gwenda Bond, Neil Gaiman, Kij Johnson

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.



“Lois Lane: A Real Work of Art” by Gwenda Bond (2015, free at Amazon)

The first of two prequel stories for Gwenda Bond's Lois Lane: Fallout, “A Real Work of Art,” is a quick story in which pre-Metropolis Lois Lane puts her investigatory skills to use at a new school. She’s been forced to enroll in an art clas... Read More

The Voice From the Edge Volume 2: Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral

The Voice From the Edge, Vol 2: Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral by Harlan Ellison

As much as I dislike the man personally, I have to say that Harlan Ellison writes great stories. Even the stories that I don’t like — because they’re violent, gory, gross, or full of others varieties of ugliness — are good stories. And if there’s anything that Harlan Ellison does better than write great stories, it’s narrate them. He’s a superb story teller. That’s why I’ve picked up all of his Voice From The Edge recordings at Audible.com. Each is a collection of Ellison’s stories which he narrates himself. This second volume, Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral, contains these stories:

“In Lonely Lands” — (first published in 1959 in Fantastic Universe) This very short story is about loneliness, companionship, and dying. It’s touching and thought provoking.
“S.R.O” — (1957, Am... Read More

The Voice From the Edge Volume 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The Voice From the Edge Vol. 1 by Harlan Ellison

Probably everyone who knows anything about Harlan Ellison knows he’s a jerk (please don’t sue me, Mr. Ellison). I had to consciously put aside my personal opinion of the man while listening to him narrate his audiobook I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The Voice From the Edge Vol. 1. I was disgusted by some of these stories, but I have to admit that even though I suspect Ellison delights in trying to shock the reader with his various forms of odiousness (mostly having to do with sex), the stories in this collection are all well-crafted, fascinating, and Ellison’s narration just may be the best I’ve ever heard. Here are the stories:

"I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" — (1967, IF: Worlds of Science Fiction) Harlan Ellison spends the introduction to I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The Voice From the Edge Vol. 1, a... Read More

Women Destroy Science Fiction! The Stories: Special audiobook edition

Women Destroy Science Fiction! Lightspeed Magazine Special Issue: The Stories edited by Christie Yant, Robyn Lupo, Rachel Swirsky

Last June, Hugo-winning Lightspeed Magazine, which is edited by John Joseph Adams, devoted an entire issue (Women Destroy Science Fiction!, June 2014, issue #49) to female science fiction writers and editors. Under Christie Yant’s and Robyn Lupo’s editorial leadership, they accepted 11 original short science fiction stories and 15 original pieces of SF flash fiction. Rachel Swirsky chose and reprinted 5 stories previously published elsewhere. Last month, Skyboat Media and Blackstone Audio released an audio version of the stories from Women Destroy Science Fiction. They gave these their usual excellent attention, casting each story’s narrator perfectly and creating a high qual... Read More

Babel-17: A dazzling new-wave SF space opera from the 1960s

Reposting to include Kat's review of the new audio version.

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Babel-17 won the 1966 Nebula award for best novel, tying with Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon. Samuel Delany’s space opera novel is dated in many ways, but still holds up.

In the future, humans have colonized many star systems. Currently, the Alliance is engaged in a war with the Invaders, who, despite the name, are also human. The Alliance has intercepted many dispatches in a code they can’t break. They’ve labeled it Babel-17. Desperate, they turn to the inter-galactically renowned poet Rydra Wong to help them decipher it.

Wong is in her late twenties, a linguistic, semantic and telepathic genius, a starship captain, and so compelling that the general who meets with her falls in love with her almost instantly. There is more than a bit of fan... Read More

The Best of Nancy Kress: A good storyteller who is fearless about wondering

The Best of Nancy Kress by Nancy Kress

Reading Nancy Kress’s work is a disconcerting experience for me. I love her ideas; there is no one quite like her when it comes to integrating a Big Idea into a believable world. On the other hand, I often don’t understand her characters’ motivations and frequently find them unengaging. Subterranean Press’s new story collection, The Best of Nancy Kress — edited by Kress herself — provides some insight into her ideas and her storytelling, and is an educational, entertaining read.

There are twenty-one stories in the book, each with a brief afterword by Kress (one afterword is so brief that it’s just a set of initials). Kress discusses each story’s history, and many of these are award winners; she also includes a few that are personal favorites or display writing a... Read More

Doomsday Book: Historically robust time travel with deeply satisfying characters

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Although it took a good two-thirds of the novel for me to decide, I've come to the conclusion that I really enjoyed this multiple award-winning book by Connie Willis. At its core, Doomsday Book is sci-fi time travel, but it’s got depth and intelligence, and leaves little wonder that it won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novel (in 1992 and ’93, respectively), as well as the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1993, and a nomination for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature (also in 1993).

Doomsday Book follows two parallel stories separated by 500 years. In the 21st century, history professor James Dunworthy finds himself caught amidst an epidemic, trapped in a quarantine and unable to confirm the safety of his mos... Read More

A Time of Changes: Reminiscent of other novels, but still excellent

A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg

A Time of Changes is one of Robert Silverberg’s best novels from his most prolific and creative period in the late 1960s/early 1970s, along with Downward to the Earth and Dying Inside. Once again, Sandy’s review (below) is both excellent and comprehensive, so I can only add my personal impressions.

In many ways, this book resembled Evgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924) and Ayn Rand’s Anthem (1938) since it depicted a repressive society that demonizes the individual, venerates the group, and suppresses private feelings. In both books, t... Read More

The Left Hand of Darkness: An important thought experiment

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), part of THE HAINISH CYCLE, won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best SF Novel, and is well known as one of the first books in the genre to intelligently explore the nature of gender and identity. Ursula K. LeGuin is a highly respected writer known for her anthropological and humanistic approach to SF, and her presence has attracted many mainstream readers and forced literary critics to take the genre more seriously. For that alone we owe her a great debt, and she has also written a series of critical essays entitled The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (1979). Her other masterpieces include The Dispossessed (1974), which won the... Read More

The Saturn Game: The slippery slope of fantasy role-playing

The Saturn Game by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s The Saturn Game, published in 1981, is a pre-Internet era exploration of role-playing games and their effect on the human psyche, which won the 1981 Nebula and the 1982 Hugo awards for best novella.

On an eight-year long voyage to Saturn, one of the more popular ways for the crew and colonists to pass time is becoming involved in psychodramas, a verbal-type role-playing game. But when a team of four people from the spaceship lands their smaller craft on Saturn’s moon Iapetus to explore the terrain, the terrain reminds three of them so strongly of the Tolkien-esque fantasy that they have spent countless hours creating and imagining that it begins to affect their judgment and discernment. Bad decisions start to cascade as fantasy impinges on their exploratory mis... Read More

The Quantum Rose: A Nebula? Really?

The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro

I have really really tried to give Catherine Asaro’s SKOLIAN EMPIRE series a fair chance. As I keep saying in my reviews, this should have been just my thing — space opera written by a female physicist. I should be loving this! Instead, to get straight to the point, so far these books have been mostly insipid insta-love romances with some quantum theory thrown in. As a woman who enjoys hard science fiction, and especially quantum theory, I was disappointed to find that these books do not appeal to me. It’s hard to imagine that they appeal much to romance readers, either, because the romances are so dull. A couple of the books (those featuring Kelric) might better be labeled erotica rather than romance.

The Quantum Rose is the sixth SKOLIAN EMPIRE book (going in publication order), but it can definitely stand alone. This one takes ... Read More

The Einstein Intersection: New Wave SF with style but story lacks discipline

The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany

It doesn't get any more New Wave SF than this very slim 1968 Nebula-winning novel (157 pages), and it's hard to imagine anything like this being written today. The Einstein Intersection is a mythical retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice story in a far-future Earth populated by the mutated remnants of humanity. Being a Samuel R. Delany book, the writing is disjointed, jazzy, lyrical, playful, and tantalizing. The surface events are fairly obscure, but it's clear that the real narrative is buried beneath, and in case you didn't catch on, every chapter has several obscure (and fairly pretentious) quotes from intellectuals, not least of all the author himself, who inserts between chapters snippets of his journals from his artistic travels in the Mediterranean while writing this book, in classic meta-fiction style. Even in a longer book I’d view this literary ... Read More

The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories: Well-written but overstuffed

The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories by Poul Anderson

Short story anthologies tend to be difficult to review, mostly because it’s hard to come up with a cohesive theme to discuss when the stories can be so diverse in quality and in tone. Fortunately for me, Poul Anderson seems to have gone out of his way in this little collection to ensure that any reviewer had no such problems here. The stories are actually remarkably similar in setting, tone, and theme. They also share much the same flaws. So while I will deal with the stories individually, I can also discuss them in general.

Each story in the collection is planetary romance of some description. Anderson apparently doesn’t buy into warp drives or wormholes, so voyages across the stars are always slow and expensive. In each story, humans establish colonies on some ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Short Stories, 2014

Here are the short stories nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award:

In “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard, the main character, Rechan, is pregnant. She must find her breath-sibling before she gives birth, or the baby will be stillborn. That, and the fact that they are carved by adolescent women from a special stone called lamsinh, are all we know about breath-siblings at first. Most women have their breath-siblings with them once they are created, but Rechan’s has remained in the mountains from which it was carved during a time of war on her planet. “The Breath of War” is a very alien story, setting up a world and a biology that are so different from ours that the wonder of the story comes from discovering the natu... Read More

The Dispossessed: A master work which stands the test of time

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

The late 1960’s and early ‘70s was a magnificently productive time in Ursula LeGuin’s career.  Though she continued writing award-winning, successful novels, nothing matches the quality and quantity of her output in this time. The first three novels in the EARTHSEA CYCLE, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Word for World is Forest, and The Lathe of Heaven were all written then, each winning one if not more awards and flying off shop shelves. The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, published in the middle of this stretch, rounds out the triumphant group and is considered by some her greatest achievement.

The Dispossessed is at heart the tale of Shevek and his struggle to acquire and d... Read More

Rendezvous with Rama: Leaves the reader humbled

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Extension of scale is an advantage science fiction has over other forms of literature, and it’s an idea Clarke puts to best use in Rendezvous with Rama. Rather than in a three dimensional sense wherein space extends infinitely, he instead uses scale to show how humanity and its accomplishments take on new meaning when viewed from the perspective of the cosmic unknown.

Bearing strong resemblance to the writings of Stanislaw Lem, Rendezvous with Rama tells the story of earth’s brief encounter with an enormous object/spacecraft that one day in a not-so-distant future suddenly appears traversing our solar system. Obviously the work of an intelligent species, the object nonetheless appears lifeless. And when explored by a team of scientists and astronauts, more questions than answers seem to arise as Clarke’s simple yet effective prose p... Read More

Falling Free: An early stand-alone VORKOSIGAN book

Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold

Falling Free is an early stand-alone story in Lois McMaster Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN SAGA. It takes place before the events we read about in the other books and tells the story of the Quaddies, those genetically engineered “mutants” who have four arms and no legs and who, therefore, make good workers for zero-gravity situations. They were created in secret by a corporation who is using them as free labor.

The story starts when Leo Graf, an engineer, is hired to train students on a distant planet. Leo doesn’t know, and isn’t told, that his new students are Quaddies, so he’s quite surprised and repulsed when he first meets them. Despite their strange anatomy, though, the Quaddies are just as smart as other humans and their four arms makes them better at some mechanical tasks. Soon it becomes apparent that the Quaddies are really just children and ... Read More

He Who Shapes: A short rich read from one of the strongest voices in SF

He Who Shapes by Roger Zelazny

In the mid to late ‘60s, the sci-fi world was Roger Zelazny’s oyster. Possessing an abundance of fresh ideas delivered with a deft hand, the author took the genre by storm — This Immortal, Lord of Light, and Creatures of Light and Darkness gained notable attention and won awards. Published amidst these unique novels was, however, a book of an entirely different range and frequency. More personal and cerebral than mythic or heroic, The Dream Master (1966) instead features Zelazny’s interests in the psyche, subconscious, and to a small degree, spiritualism. The novel is based on the novella He Who Shapes, which Zelazny would later state is his preferred version and is the subject of this review.

He Who Shapes is the story of Dr. Charles Rend... Read More