Marc's Reviews > Nebula Awards Showcase 2009

Nebula Awards Showcase 2009 by Ellen Datlow
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's review
May 18, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, short-stories, fantasy
Read in June, 2009

This anthology was presented at the 2009 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) convention/conference held in Los Angeles, California on April 24-26, 2009. The anthology includes award winning stories, plus some nominees, that were announced/awarded at the previous year’s SFWA conference held in Austin Texas on April 25-27, 2008. As a result, the included stories are largely from the year 2007 meaning the anthology’s title and content makes perfect sense to someone attending the 2009 SFWA conference but will be a puzzle to others as they will wonder why an anthology titled “Nebula Awards Showcase 2009” contains stories from 2007 that were awarded in early 2008.

That said – the anthology contains
• An excerpt for the 2007 Nebula Award winner in the Novel category.
• The 2007 Nebula Award winner in the Novellas category plus one of the nominated stories out of six nominees.
• The 2007 Nebula Award winner in the Novelettes category plus two of the nominated stories out of seven nominees.
• The 2007 Nebula Award winner in the Short Stories category plus three of the nominated stories out of six nominees.
• The 2007 Nebula Award winner in the Scripts category. None of the other five nominees are included.
• The 2007 Rhysling award winners in the Long Poem and Short Poem categories.
• The 2007 Dwarf Stars winner (poem of ten lines or less).
• Two original short stories. It’s not clear why these stories were included.
• A 1965 short story by Michael Moorcock who was the winner of the SFWA’s Damon Knight Grand Master Award for 2008.
• Essays about the SFWA itself, Nebula Awards, Rhysling awards, Dwarf Stars awards, Damon Knight Grand Master Award, the Andre Norton Award, SFWA’s Authors Emeriti award, plus a couple of essays about two of the award winning authors.
• Two speculative fiction movie review essays
• The 2008 Nebula Awards final ballot plus a list of the previous Nebula Award winners.

Thus the anthology is a lot more than just a compendium of Nebula award winning stories. All of the stories and poems in this anthology are very good and I also found the essays to be quite enjoyable. That’s to be expected as they were award winners or selected nominees.

The stories are:

“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” novelette by Ted Chiang – Nebula Award winner –This is a time travel machine story with a twist in that it’s set in Egypt during the Arabian Nights era.

“Always” short story by Karen Joy Fowler – Nebula Award winner – I classify this as a fiction work rather than science fiction or fantasy. The story is told from the point of view of a teen-age girl who joins a cult that promises you will live forever.

“Titanium Mike Saves the Day” short story by David D. Levine – Nebula Award nominee – This is a clever science fiction story about stories. People make up and tell stories about Titanium Mike who could be considered a futuristic Paul Bunyan.

“Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” novelette by Geoff Ryman – Nebula Award nominee – This fantasy work is set in Cambodia and is about a young adult who is plagued by ghosts of her father’s victims.

“The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” excerpt of a novel by Michael Chabon – Nebula Award winner – While the novel has won Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards this excerpt is not particularly good. The story, as told in the excerpt, is about a surrealist civilization that seems like Israel and has 2.3 million people living on an Alaskan island.

“Last Unicorn” poem by Jane Yolen - Rhysling Dwarf Stars winner – A unicorn fantasy in ten lines.

“The Graven Idol’s Godheart” poem by Rich Ristow – Rhysling Short Poem winner – A poem about the Baghdad Battery and high priests of ancient times.

“The Journey to Kailash” poem by Mike Allen – Rhysling Long Poem winner – It is good if Ganesh, the god of good luck, comes. An 18 year old’s mother marries Ganesh, the god of good luck. It’s good when he is present but is it a misfortune when he is gone?
This poem may be confusing for those that don’t know about Hinduism.

“Stars Seen Through Stone” novella by Lucius Shepard – Nebula Award nominee – A town receives periodic “visitations” from floating balls of light. While much of the story reads as fiction literature there is exploration of what may happen if creativity was boosted.

“The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change” Fantasy novelette by Kij Johnson – Nebula Award nominee – I put off reading this one for a bit as the title seemed strange. However, once I started I enjoyed the premise thoroughly which is what could happen if there was a “change” and mammals started talking. Much of the story consists of vignettes by dogs.

“The Pleasure Garden of Felipe Sagittarius” short story by Michael Moorcock – serialized in 1965 and published in 1966 – A murder mystery in a science fiction, or perhaps imaginative fiction, setting. For example, the victim has disposable paper lungs.

“Clubbing” original essay by Ellen Asher – I found this a very interesting essay. The author was the editor of Doubleday’s Science Fiction Book Club from 1973 to 2007 and writes about her career.

“Captive Girl” science fiction short story by Jennifer Pelland – Nebula Award nominee – When someone is very different than your average person and gets a lover does that lover love the disability or whatever makes that person “different” or the person herself? I read this story twice, a few days apart, and found it better on the second reading. The issue the first time was that the story jumps right into the action with no preamble. It’s likely the author was trying to give the reader that sense of disorientation that the main story character feels.

“Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” literary fiction short story by Andy Duncan – Nebula Award nominee – A little girl gets a playmate, a chicken that runs backwards, and which the girl names Jesus Christ. This bothers adults but the child manages to rationalize everything perfectly.

“Fountain of Age” science fiction novella by Nancy Kress – Nebula Award winner – Sometimes we get what we dreamed a lifetime for and come to a new understanding about the dream. The story setting is a crafty old, and very rich, criminal recounting parts of his life while also carrying out another “job.”

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