One of the perennial awards in the science fiction / fantasy industry, the Nebula Award is awarded to the best fiction from the Science Fiction Writers of America. Each year, the organization compiles a short list of the best stories of the prior year. Here’s the ballot for this year:
1. Best Novel
2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion … she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.
3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
4. Fire with Fire, Charles E. Gannon
2105, September: Intelligence Analyst Caine Riordan uncovers a conspiracy on Earth’s Moon—a history-changing clandestine project—and ends up involuntarily cryocelled for his troubles. Twelve years later, Riordan awakens to a changed world. Humanity has achieved faster-than-light travel and is pioneering nearby star systems. And now, Riordan is compelled to become an inadvertent agent of conspiracy himself. Riordan’s mission: travel to a newly settled world and investigate whether a primitive local species was once sentient—enough so to have built a lost civilization.
However, arriving on site in the Delta Pavonis system, Caine discovers that the job he’s been given is anything but secret or safe. With assassins and saboteurs dogging his every step, it’s clear that someone doesn’t want his mission to succeed. In the end, it takes the broad-based insights of an intelligence analyst and a matching instinct for intrigue to ferret out the truth: that humanity is neither alone in the cosmos nor safe. Earth is revealed to be the lynchpin planet in an impending struggle for interstellar dominance, a struggle into which it is being irresistibly dragged. Discovering new dangers at every turn, Riordan must now convince the powers-that-be that the only way for humanity to survive as a free species is to face the perils directly—and to fight fire with fire.
5. Hild, Nicola Griffith
In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods are struggling, their priests worrying. Hild is the king’s youngest niece, and she has a glimmering mind and a natural, noble authority. She will become a fascinating woman and one of the pivotal figures of the Middle Ages: Saint Hilda of Whitby.
But now she has only the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing her surroundings closely and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.
Her uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Hild establishes a place for herself at his side as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—unless she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, for her family, for her loved ones, and for the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.
Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early Middle Ages—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Working from what little historical record is extant, Griffith has brought a beautiful, brutal world to vivid, absorbing life.
6. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren—a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose—to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.
7. The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata
There Needs To Be A War Going On Somewhere: Lieutenant James Shelley commands a high-tech squad of soldiers in a rural district within the African Sahel. They hunt insurgents each night on a harrowing patrol, guided by three simple goals: protect civilians, kill the enemy, and stay alive-because in a for-profit war manufactured by the defense industry there can be no cause worth dying for. To keep his soldiers safe, Shelley uses every high-tech asset available to him-but his best weapon is a flawless sense of imminent danger … as if God is with him, whispering warnings in his ear.
8. A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar
Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. But just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.
In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Yet even as the country shimmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of becoming free by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that seductive necromancy, reading.
9. The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free
Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
10. Best Novella
”Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages (Tor.com 10/2/13)”The Weight of the Sunrise”, Vylar Kaftan (Asimov’s 2/13)”Annabel Lee”, Nancy Kress (New Under the Sun)”Burning Girls”, Veronica Schanoes (Tor.com 6/19/13)”Trial of the Century” Lawrence M. Schoen (www.lawrencemschoen.com/schoen-freebies/trial-of-the-century-a-novella/ 8/13; World Jumping)Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean)
‘‘Paranormal Romance’’, Christopher Barzak (Lightspeed 6/13)‘‘The Waiting Stars’’, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky)‘‘They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass’’, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Asimov’s 1/13)‘‘Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters’’, Henry Lien (Asimov’s 12/13)‘‘The Litigation Master and the Monkey King’’, Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/13)‘‘In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind’’, Sarah Pinsker (Strange Horizons 7/1 – 7/8/13)
12. Best Short Story
”The Sounds of Old Earth”, Matthew Kressel (Lightspeed 1/13)”Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons 1/7/13)”Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer”, Kenneth Schneyer (Clockwork Phoenix 4)”If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13)”Alive, Alive Oh”, Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (Lightspeed 6/13)
13. Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Doctor Who: ”The Day of the Doctor” (Nick Hurran, director; Steven Moffat, writer)Europa Report (Sebastián Cordero, director; Philip Gelatt, writer)Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, director; Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, writers)Her (Spike Jonze, director; Spike Jonze, writer)The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, director; Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt as by Michael deBruyn, writers)Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, director; Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, writers)
14. Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black (Little, Brown; Indigo)When We Wake, Karen Healey (Allen & Unwin; Little, Brown)Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson (Grand Central)The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)Hero, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)September Girls, Bennett Madison (Harper Teen)A Corner of White, Jaclyn Moriarty (Levine)