Nominations for the 2010 Nebula Awards are trickling in. I've already made a few, and plan to finish them up in the coming weeks by adding more stories and novels to the mix. However, I worry that a major embarrassment may be building for the Nebula Awards in that there's a chance The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi won't be on the final ballot.
I've praised The Windup Girl at length in my earlier SF Signal review, and I've heard from many people that this is the most amazing novel they've read in years. In addition, Time Magazine recently named it to their top ten fiction list for 2009, while Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly both gave it starred reviews and also added it to their annual best books lists (see here and here). Finally, BookPage said The Windup Girl "will almost certainly be the most important SF novel of the year."
I'll take that a step forward and say this is easily one of the best SF novels of the last decade, and one which will be recognized as a literary classic for many years to come.
But to my surprise, the novel has only four Nebula nominations so far (with one of those being mine). Under the new rules, the top six stories in each category make the final ballot. While four nominations is nothing to dismiss, I'd expected so many more.
Part of the problem may be that The Windup Girl is not an easy novel to read. Niall Harrison addressed this issue recently in his Strange Horizons review as he described the novel's disturbing aspects. This caused one reader to comment "Your excellent review has convinced me I won't be missing much if I skip The Windup Girl." Niall's response: "Damn! That wasn't my aim. I was hoping to convey that it's a tough read in a number of ways, but a fascinating, worthwhile one. Ah well."
I hope the fact that The Windup Girl tackles disturbing topics isn't why so few people are nominating it.
The complaint about the old Nebula rules was that deserving stories and novels rarely made the final ballot. For me, whether or not Bacigalupi's novel makes the final ballot will be a key test of the new rules. If we see the same old same old up there, while a break-through novel like The Windup Girl misses out, well, so much for improving the Nebulas.
Maybe I'm being a bit premature in my worry since the nominating period is open through Feb. 15. But I want people to read this book and consider it for a nomination while there is still time.
SFWA members can read the novel online here through the member-only website. Or better yet, buy a copy. And prepare yourself for the best new SF novel out there.