NEBULA AWARDS THREE
Edited by Roger Zelazny
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Stealth Press continues its Nebula Award anthology reprint series with Nebula Award Stories Three, edited by the late Roger Zelazny in 1968. Thinner than the previous two volumes, Zelazny does not include any non-fiction essays and his introduction and afterword are quite short. Nevertheless, the meat of the anthology is the stories which it includes, most of which stand up to the passage of time.
The anthology opens with a rather interesting choice. J.G. Ballard’s “The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D” did not win the Nebula in 1967, nor was it nominated. Zelazny does not offer either explanation or excuse for the inclusion of this story, allowing Ballard’s words to provide their own justification. Ballard portrays a world with a new artform, cloud sculpture, in which artists use gliders to mold pre-existing clouds into shapes.
The first Nebula winner in the collection doesn’t appear until the fourth story. Samuel R. Delany’s “Aye, and Gomorrah. . . .” This story details the Earth leave of a group of spacers and slowly explains the fascination some humans, known as frelks have with them. Delany, himself, draws a comparison between frelks, homosexuals and fetishists, with the implication that the frelks are standing in for any and all people who are labeled sexually deviant.
In addition to short story winner “Aye, and Gomorrah. . . .,” Zelazny has decided to include Gary Wright’s “Mirror of Ice,” which, like the Ballard story, was not nominated for the award. In Wright’s case, Zelazny explains that he views Wright as “a newcomer who I think will do many a goodly thing as time wears on. I eagerly await his first novel. I tip my hat to him on the eve of what I think will be a grand career.” Wright’s next short story, “On the Wings of Imagination, Fly” wouldn’t appear until 1989 with his first, and to date only, novel appearing the following year. The story is part of science fiction’s long tradition of sports tales, although the sport in question is single-man bobsled racing. Rather morbid as it focuses on the various deaths which have taken place on the most difficult run, the story is a semi-satisfying examination of why people participate in extreme sports with the knowledge that it can easily cost them their lives. What makes the story unsatisfying in the end is Wright’s failure to come to any conclusions.
Fritz Leiber’s “Gonna Roll the Bones” is a story of playing craps with the Devil. Unfortunately, none of the characters are sympathetic and the setting is seedy, but not inviting. Although well written, it pales in comparison to the competition Zelazny has included, Harlan Ellison’s “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes,” which stands the passage of years better. Like Leiber’s story, Ellison’s tale also revolves around gambling. Ellison tells the story of a down-on-his luck man who manages to parlay a single dollar into a small fortune at a slot machine.
Moorcock’s entry, the Nebula-Award-winning “Behold the Man,” send Karl Glogauer from the mid-1970s back to the time of Jesus. Both Moorcock and Glogauer are interested in examining the formation of myth, in this case of Jesus. While Glogauer and his twentieth century girlfriend, Monica, debate which came first, the historical Jesus or the idea of Jesus, Glogauer is able to determine the historicity of the events from a first hand view upon his return. After more than thirty years, “Behold the Man” is probably the story in the collection which has managed to hold up best of all.
The final story is, in some ways, the most traditionally science fictional, although it embraces many of the tropes used in fantasy. “Weyr Search” is Anne McCaffrey’s initial foray into the world of Pern. While Moorcock expanded his novella into a novel, McCaffrey began adding sections onto “Weyr Search” which resulted first in a novel, and then in an on-going series of books, which causes a small problem for those who are familiar with the series. “Weyr Search stands up very well on its own. The political problems and characters McCaffrey lays out work quite well within the context of this story. By the time McCaffrey finished adding several additional volumes of detail to the story, “Weyr Search” has begun to lack continuity with the rest of McCaffrey’s vision, working best, perhaps, as a stand-alone novella.
What the book lacks is a listing of all the stories and novels which were nominated in for the third Nebula award from which the table of contents was selected. While the stories, on the whole, stand up to the passage of time, comparing Leiber to Ellison makes the reader wonder why Leiber’s story won and what the quality (and titles) of the other stories were. Similarly, Zelazny did not provide any of the direct competition to “Aye, and Gomorrah. . . ,” so the reader cannot make an informed decision about whether the SFWA made the “right” choice in presenting the award to Delany, who also won for best novel for The Einstein Intersection. While the book could have been longer, the stories are all worth reading, even thirty-three years after the book’s initial publication and it is a considerable service Stealth Press is providing in arranging with SFWA to return these books to print.
|J.G. Ballard||The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D|
|Harlan Ellison||Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes|
|Gary Wright||Mirror of Ice|
|Samuel R. Delany||Aye, and Gomorrah. . .|
|Fritz Leiber||Gonna Roll the Bones|
|Michael Moorcock||Behold the Man|
|Anne McCaffrey||Weyr Search|