In a somewhat quieter and less-glitzy corner, members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America will soon gather to present the 2011 Nebula Awards to the past year’s outstanding speculative novels, short fiction, and screenplays–and they released the list of nominees just the other day. I especially like that the Nebulas cover a lot of different categories of short fiction, and most of those stories are available to read online.
Whatever your perception of the whole awards culture, I think there’s a lot of useful information to be gleaned from authors recognized by their peers for craftsmanship, originality, and masterful storytelling. They provide a benchmark: This is what works. This is the level of quality necessary to pass the editorial screen of the most selective markets and make it to publication. These are the stories that people who read a lot of science fiction and fantasy remember at the end of the year, and I think that may be the most telling quality of all. The best stories linger with you long after you’ve finished them.
Anyhow, I encourage you to take a look at the 2011 Nebula Award nominees. If you’re short on time, I highly recommend Ken Liu’s short story, “The Paper Menagerie.” It’s a gentle tale about the important things we often don’t tell each other until it’s too late, and the magic woven into life that we don’t appreciate until it’s gone.