It's still two years until officially the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) change their name to the Science fiction AND FANTASY Writers of America (with the F in SFWA changing from Fiction to Fantasy) (in 1991) but unofficially it had already occurred two years *before*, in 1987. This means if your hoping to read science fiction in these anthologies after that date, it's hit or miss. Fortunately the SF collections are still pretty good for the following few years before the shorter works awards eventually become corrupted by the Speculative Fiction writers branch of the SFWA. (The Nebula *novels* are definitely to be approached with extreme caution as none to few are awarded to actual science fiction novels.) But the anthology of this year, 1989, is good.
All of three stories awarded the Nebula are good. If you're not familiar with the short fiction breakdown, they loosely follow the 15/30/60 rule of thumb. Roughly:
Short story is about 15 pages
Novelette is about 30 pages
Novella is about 60 pages
These are rough estimates. The length could be plus or minus 10 pages or more from the above.
First off the novella winner "The Mountains of Mourning" by Lois McMaster Bujold is probably the most solid. Bujold won her first significant SF award last year for her novel Falling Free (although it's debatable on whether that was deserved), but it apparently has given much, much recognition considering the numerous Nebula and particularly Hugo Awards for her novels that she's won. This novella, I believe, is one of her first entries into her Vorkosigan universe, and his story is about Miles Vorkosigan on his first assignment after graduating from the academy on the planet Barrayar. Her writing is brilliant. You can almost feel the air shimmering in the heat and hear the bugs in the air from her writing.
"Ripples in the Dirac Sea" by Geoffrey A. Landis, the Nebula short story winner, quite briefly is about time travel in particular back to the 1960's and is brilliant. This has all the nostalgia of that time. Landis has set up the rules for time travel and because of the circumstances he's somewhat `trapped' there, but trapped as in being trapped in paradise from the way it's written. Very enjoyable
"At the Rialto" by Connie Willis, the Nebula novelette winner, is quite a funny story and can be appreciated by anyone who had to go to a conference, or even more so by anyone's whose ever had their hotel reservations screwed up.
There are other fictional stories in this collection, but what are really worth reading are the several essays. One being "What is Science Fiction?" by Damon Knight. Damon Knight founded the SFWA in 1965 and so he knows quite a bit about it. His essay is actually from 1977 but parts were updated for 1990. In the 1990 section he apparently is not happy with the SFWA becoming amalgamated with Fantasy and as we all now know his hopes and visions have failed. This is what he writes: "I think it's a mistake of catastrophic proportions to bill the Nebula anthology as SFWA's choices for the best science fiction *and fantasy*. The Nebula was never intended to be and should not be an award for fantasy... My solution to this problem when I was president of SFWA was to tell people, `If *you* think it's fantasy, don't nominate it and don't vote for it.' " Powerful and ultimately futile words coming from the person who *founded* the SFWA, especially considering the very next year the SFWA officially incorporated Fantasy into their name. Knight was married to Kate Wilhelm, so she may have had an influence. Being on the outside, it's difficult to know what the heck happened that the science fiction side lost. In later anthologies, those on the winning side smugly suggested that if science fiction writers want to give awards to *just* science fiction they will have to break off and start their own new organization. This may not be a bad idea. Nascar broke away from the major car racing organization whose showcase was the Indianapolis 500 maybe ten or more years ago, and look at the stunning success and popularity of Nascar now. Does anyone watch the Indy 500 anymore, does it even exist? SFWA, in all sense and purposes, stands for Speculative Fiction Writers of America and the Nebula awards in all categories completely are awarded to speculative fiction works (if it also happens to be science fiction that's just happenstance) from the 90's on and for the foreseeable future. If you want to read science fiction, you'll have to use the Hugo awards as a guide (who have not had an overlap with the Nebula awards in any of the short fiction for the past ten years!!!, this is a bad, bad sign for the Nebula's).
The other essay in this anthology relevant to this topic is "Vulgar Art" by Orson Scott Card. Ironically, in the beginning of reading his essay I thought he was referring to the difference between speculative writers, the Elitists writing elitist art, and the science fiction writers writing the vulgar art. He was, however, writing about the difference between mainstream writers, being the elitists, and SF, being the vulgar art. This essay, in conjunction with one written in Nebula Winners 15 by Frank Herbert in 1979, really highlights a sense of insecurity science fiction writers have about their field. I can understand that, for one to say "I write science fiction" could have a twinge of embarrassment. Particularly I suppose to `mainstream' writers. Now for one to say "I write speculative fiction" has a sense of mystery and newness, and I suppose for SF writers, a greater sense of prestige. But it also has a sense of flakiness. It's like it's not cool to say I listen to the music of Led Zeppelin, or Skid Row, or Nickelback, because someone can come back and say "oh man, those are old dinosaur bands". (In factor the metaphor `dinosaur' is what speculative writers say about science fiction writers). No, it's cool instead to say I listen to `Hot New Thing' <stick in name here> and puff out your chest in pride as no one's heard much about it. But... regarding what mainstream writers may think of science fiction writers: so what! Science fiction has methodically collected a solid loyal following over the years, over the *decades*. This is not something to be lightly cast aside. If the Speculative F Writers of America end up falling by the wayside, who then would the metaphor `dinosaur' be more applicable towards. Scott's Vulgar Art essay is just one of several essay's I've read before and since on the conflict within the SFWA and there's no apparent resolution in sight.
- Publisher: Harcourt (1 May 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0151649332
- ISBN-13: 978-0151649334
- Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 3.2 x 22.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 522 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item