NEBULA AWARDS SHOWCASE 2003
Edited by Nancy Kress
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Nebula Awards Showcase 2003 collects the stories which won Nebula Awards in 2001 and adds several essays collected by editor Nancy Kress. Kress has also chosen two of the runners up for inclusion in this book which provides a glimpse at the state of science fiction in the first year of the new millennium. Because the anthology is based on the winners of the Nebula Award, Kress only had limited input into the selections, however she was able to decide who to contact for inclusion beyond the required items.
On the surface, Severna Park's “The Cure for Everything” (from Sci Fiction) is a golden bullet story about a genetically isolated tribe in the Brazilian rainforest that could hold the cure for myriad diseases. The story winds up providing an intriguing look at exploitation for the common good, particularly by examining it at the micro level by focusing on a person whose disease could be cured by the exploitation which she has always fought against. Park adds more levels with a brief examination of the idea of duty to and sense of community.
"The Ultimate Earth" not only won Jack Williamson the Nebula Award for 2001, but also his first Hugo Award for fiction in the same year. It tells the story of children raised in seclusion on the Moon who have a desire to visit the Earth, just now repopulated after several impacts made it uninhabitable. "The Ultimate Earth" deals with their eventual landing at a sort of historical park in the middle of Australia and, perhaps, a better understanding of what has happened on Earth to cause its depopulation and its current state. Williamson handles his characters and the details well, although he plays the situation a little too close to his chest for much of the story, revealing information to his characters and the readers only in little bits.
Kelly Link's story "Louise's Ghost" examines a strong bond between two women, both named Louise, who met at summer camp several years before the story takes place. Neither woman is particularly likable, nor are they unlikable, they just are. The protagonist is single, only dates married men, and has a ghost residing in her house. The other is single, only dates cellists, and has a daughter with a fixation on the color green. What makes the story interesting is an off the cuff comment made by the mother of the first Louise, implying that the second Louise, and perhaps her daughter, are imaginary friends of the firs Louise. Link doesn't follow up on this thread, but it does provide an interesting look at the story. Link manages to handle the two woman having the same name well, and for the most part it is easy to tell which is which, especially when the distinction is important.
Kress includes an excerpt from Catherine Asaro's novel The Quantum Rose. Previously serialized in Analog, this is a reasonably contained portion of the novel which provides the reader with the taste for what Asaro's style is like and will also help grab the reader's interest. Asaro writes a combination of romance and space opera which is quite unlike anything being done by anyone else in the field. What really sets it apart is the mixture of hard science with human relations.
In addition to the three winning stories and a sample from the winning novel, Kress has included stories by two other nominees and a series of brief essays by a variety of authors on different aspects of the speculative fiction genre. The stories, by James Patrick Kelly and Mike Resnick, provide additional insight into the competition which the winners faced. The essays, including ones by Mindy Klasky on traditional fantasy, Geoffrey Landis on hard science fiction, and Michael Cassutt on films and television, portray a snapshot of the genre.
Not only does SFWA recognize stories, but also lifetime achievement. In 2001, this recognition went to Betty Ballentine. As an industry insider, Ballentine’s name may only be known to many readers because of the book imprint named for her and her husband, however, Shelly Shapiro, an editor at Del Rey Books, provides a brief essay which explains some of the importance of Ballentine to the publishing field, and science fiction in particular.
James Patrick Kelly plays with time and space in "Undone," which depicts a world which seems vaguely familiar at first, but quickly loses its familiarity as the characters jaunt through space and time. His use of parallel paragraphs and reversed text are interesting in a slipstream sort of way, but each time he uses them, the reader must reorient himself in the story and try to figure out what, exactly, Kelly is attempting to do as he subverts the conventions of writing and science fiction.
Many of Mike Resnick’s stories and novels are fables couched in science fictional terms, frequently without any acknowledgement of scientific principles, and such is the case with “The Elephants on Neptune,” which Nancy Kress has elected to include in this volume. It tells of a meeting between the descendents of Earth’s elephants and the first men to arrive on Neptune in the twenty-fifth century. Resnick explore the nature of humans and elephants, with the former standing in for everything that is wrong with the human race and the latter appearing as the enlightened of the race. Mixing historical snippets on the history of race relations between humans and elephants, Resnick says a lot about the manner in which humans can ignore and misinterpret their own history, even as they hearken back to it in order to justify their actions.Finally, Kress includes the winners of the Rhysling Awards, given for speculative fiction poetry by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. This year’s winners included Joe Haldeman’s poem “January Fires” and Bruce Boston’s “My Wife Returns As She Would Have It,” both of which originally appeared in Asimov’s.
|Severna Park||The Cure for Everything|
|Kelly Link||Louise's Ghost|
|Jack Williamson||The Ultimate Earth|
|Catherine Asaro||The Quantum Rose (excerpt)|
|James Patrick Kelly||Undone|
|Mike Resnick||The Elephants on Neptune|
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