Monday, May 16, 2016

My Favorite Stories Sometimes Win: A Nebula Love Story

Uprooted won the Nebula Award for Best Novel on Saturday night. It is a fantastic novel and well worthy of this and any other award it happens to win. This is, of course, my opinion, but I assume you've read my review of it.

As I am  not now, nor do I expect to ever be, a member of the SFWA, I have no say or stake in the Nebula Awards. If I had a vote, and granting that I've only read four of the seven nominees for Best Novel, I would have voted for The Fifth Season (see my review for reasons why).

You might think that this is where, despite my deep admiration of Uprooted, I would bemoan that my favorite stories don't win awards (and sometimes don't get nominated), but that's not where I'm going with this.

First, it should be noted that two of my favorite stories from 2015 did, in fact, win Nebula Awards on Saturday night. I adored both Nnedi Okorafor's Binti as well as Sarah Pinsker's "Our Lady of the Open Road". Both are wonderful stories and I am so happy both Okorafor and Pinsker were recognized as being excellent pieces of fiction. Along with that, if we're talking about choosing between Uprooted and The Fifth Season, we're really talking about picking between two of my favorite books published in 2015. And if we add the also nominated Ancillary Mercy to this conversation, three of my favorite books from last year. Even if you don't win, I wouldn't say that you lost.

This leads into my second thing I'd like to talk about. So much of the conversation about awards, whether it is the Nebula or the Hugo or the any other award you'd like to mention, is about the winner. Don't get me wrong, of course I want my favorite stories to be recognized as the "best" novel or short story or whatever other category. Of course I do. I not only get emotionally invested in the story, I sometimes also become emotionally invested in the success of the author. Of course I want my favorite author to win all the awards and sell all the books. Of course I do.

That's okay, but let's not lose sight of the fact that just receiving a nomination is a significant recognition and is difficult enough to do in any given year, let alone a single time in a career. Publish your best work in the wrong year and it may still miss the ballot for any number of reasons. The recognition of a nomination is important, both for the work as well as for the field itself. The nomination says "yes, this story was excellent and we value it".

The other thing that goes with this is that we, the readers, are the real winners when a strong short list is announced because it gives us the opportunity to read and discover and debate and see some of the scope of excellence of the genre. I'm not going to sit here and say that it doesn't matter who wins, because sometimes it does and it certainly does to the authors involved, but as readers and as fans, we've already won when the Nebula Awards recognize such a strong group of stories and authors with the posted shortlist.

We won again on Saturday night with the awards banquet and the celebration of such excellence in science fiction and fantasy.