Stories worth reading

My Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Award nominations

Below are my nominations for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards.  The deadline for Nebula nominations is February 15 while Hugo nominations are due March 11. The Locus Award deadline is April 15 and their "recommended reading" list is in the current February 2012 issue.

Please note my nominations are arranged in alphabetical order by title. I should also note that Ken Liu had an amazing year as a writer, with two nominations on my list. In addition, his short story "Staying Behind" from Clarkesworld was on my nomination short list (but was bumped by his equally amazing "The Paper Menagerie").


  • God's War by Kameron Hurley (Nightshade books)
  • Osama by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)
  • Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh (Nightshade Books)
  • The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (Tor)


  • Kiss Me Twice by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov's)
  • The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi * With Unclean Hands by Adam Troy-Castro (Analog)
  • The Ice Owl by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • The Man Who Bridged the Mist by Kij Johnson (Asimov's)
  • The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary by Ken Liu (Panverse)


  • Fields of Gold by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse 4)
  • Mortal Bait by Richard Bowes (Dark Horse)
  • Ray of Light by Brad Torgersen (Analog)
  • Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders (
  • The Old Equations by Jake Kerr (Lightspeed)

Short Story

  • For Love's Delirium Haunts the Fractured Mind, by David Mercurio Rivera (Interzone/Fictionwise)
  • Movement by Nancy Fulda (Asimov's)
  • Shipbirth by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov's)
  • The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu (F&SF)
  • The World Is Cruel, My Daughter by Cory Skerry (Fantasy)


  • Attack the Block by Joe Cornish (Big Talk Pictures)
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife by Neil Gaiman (BBC Whales / BBC America)
  • The Adjustment Bureau by George Nolfi (Universal Pictures)


  • Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking Children's)
  • Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (First Second)
  • Nightspell by Leah Cypess (Greenwillow)

* I totally forgot that The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi was a finalist for last year's Nebula and is not eligible for this year's awards. My bad on that. So I've substituted the next novella from my shortlist.

Best Short Story of the Year: Movement by Nancy Fulda

As we near the end of the year, the literary SF/F award season is ready to crash down upon us. Many of the year's best anthologies have announced their picks, the Nebulas are open for nominations, and everyone has an opinion about which stories are award-worthy.

In a few weeks I'll release my complete list of the stories and books I plan to nominate for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and other awards. But before then, I want to highlight one story which will absolutely be on my year's best list. In fact, it's hard to argue that this isn't hands down the best short story of the year.

The story I refer to is the amazing "Movement" by Nancy Fulda, originally published in the March 2011 Asimov's and reprinted online in both print and audio formats by Escape Pod.

As Nancy says over on her blog, "Movement" is about a "teenage girl with a fictional variant of autism and it toys with the intersections between neurology, temporal dynamics, evolution, and chaos theory." But as with all great stories, that summary doesn't begin to do it justice. I suggest you immediately go read it.

I think the reason I relate to the story's narrator is I have a similar sense of time and place. Perhaps this results from working as an archeologist, or perhaps this sense was always there. I simply can't help looking at the world and seeing it as if I'm an archeologist excavating everything from a thousand years in the future.

This hard SF story is insightful, lyrically written, moving, and eye-opening while retaining an almost effortless flow, and is one of the few stories I've immediate reread upon finishing.  I only hope that one day I can write a story equally as full of insight, emotion, and truth as "Movement."

My Interzone Readers' Poll Selections

The Interzone Readers' Poll is running now through March 31. Any story or art published last year by Interzone is eligible. You can vote for or against the stories and art over on the Interzone forum or by emailing Martin McGrath at

I've been honored to have my stories win the last two readers' polls: "When Thorns Are the Tips of Trees" in 2008 and my novella "Sublimation Angels" in 2009. While I have a number of stories eligible for this year's award, it would not be appropriate to campaign since I've twice won the poll. 

My votes this year are (in alphabetical order by author):

  • "Flying in the Face of God" by Nina Allen (issue 227)
  • "The Shipmaker" by Aliette de Bodard (issue 231)
  • "The Shoe Factory" by Matthew Cook (issue 231)
  • "Orchestral Manoevures In The Dark Matter" by Jim Hawkins (issue 229)
  • "A Passion for Art" by David D. Levine (issue 228)
  • "Dance of the Kawkawroons" by Mercurio D. Rivera (issue 227)
  • "Alternate Girl's Expatriate Life" by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (issue 229)
  • "Again and Again and Again" by Rachel Swirsky (issue 226)
  • "The Insurance Agent" by Lavie Tidhar (issue 230)

For the artwork, that's a hard call. Warwick Fraser-Coombe illustrated all six covers for Interzone in 2010; when combined, the covers create this impressive image. If I had to pick one person to win the award, it would be him because of the sheer scale and beauty of what he accomplished. But there were also a number of great interior illustrations.

My votes for best art are:

  • All 6 covers by Warwick Fraser-Coombe (and their combined illustration)
  • Illustration for "Peacemaker, Peacemaker, Little Po Beep" by Warwick Fraser-Coombe (issue 231)
  • Illustration for "Plague Birds" by Darren Winter (issue 228)
  • Illustration for "The Shipmaker" by Richard Wagner (issue 231)

I've cast no negative votes for either stories or art.

My 2010 Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award Recommendations

After a final rush of reading I've pulled together my nominations for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards.  I highly recommend these selections and hope people will consider them for their own picks.

The deadline for Nebula nominations is February 15 while Hugo nominations are due March 26. The Locus Award traditionally opens for nominations when the "recommended reading" list and ballot are published in their February issue.

Please note my nominations are arranged in alphabetical order by author/artist/publication. If links to works are available they are also provided.

Nominations for All Three Awards

Best Novel

Best Novella

Best Novelettes

Best Short Stories

Nebula Related Category

Andre Norton Award (for Young Adult Novels)

Hugo Only Categories

Best Semiprozine

Best Related Work

Best Fanzine

Best Fan Writer

Note: While I love the fan writings of Dave Langford, Nick Mamatas, John Scalzi and other big name authors, I'm using this award to focus on fan writers who don't usually receive the notice they deserve.

Best Editor, Short Form

  • John Joseph Adams (Lightspeed, various anthologies)
  • Andy Cox (Interzone)
  • Gordon Van Gelder (F&SF)
  • Stanley Schmidt (Analog)
  • Sheila Williams (Asimov's)

Best Editor, Long Form

Note: It's hard to figure out who qualifies in this category under the arcane Hugo rules, so consider this an attempt to highlight those editors whose books impressed me in 2010.

  • David G. Hartwell (Tor Books)
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Tor Books)
  • Jennifer Hunt (Little, Brown, editor of Ship Breaker)
  • Jason Sizemore (Apex Books)
  • Paul Stevens (Tor Books)

Best Professional Artist

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Locus Only Categories

Best Anthology

Best Collection

Please note I didn't nominate any works in the Hugo categories of dramatic performances, best fan artist, and best graphic story, or in the Nebula's dramatic performance category. Others will have to voice opinions on which nominations belong there.

If anyone sees any mistakes with my nominations—a story in a wrong category, ineligible works—please let me know. I won't officially submit these nominations until early February. In addition, as authors and publishers provide additional links to their works I'll add these to the post.

The Story of an Old Seaman's Medal of Honor

James Avery earned the Medal of Honor by saving men under extreme gunfire during the Battle of Mobile Bay. According to his medal citation, while serving aboard the U.S.S. Metacomet, Avery, as a member of the boat's crew, "went to the rescue of the U.S. monitor Tecumseh when that vessel was struck by a torpedo in passing the enemy forts in Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864. (Seaman) Avery braved the enemy fire which was said by the admiral to be 'one of the most galling' he had ever seen, and aided in rescuing from death 10 of the crew of the Tecumseh, eliciting the admiration of both friend and foe."

I've visited Fort Morgan a number of times, and the peaceful sea grasses and lapping waves refuse to hint at what Avery and the other men went through on that day almost 150 years ago. And that brief citation and the knowledge that Avery was awarded the medal would be all we know of this man, were it not for an amazing story the New York Times published in 1898, a few months before Avery's death.

The story is set in the 1890s and Avery has been a sailor for most of his life. He is now an old tar having a difficult time adjusting to the Navy's new metal steam ships. Because Avery can't do the work of a "modern" sailor, his commanding officer gives him an easier—if lowly—position as a berth-deck cook. All that changes, however, when the captain accidentally discovers that Avery earned the Medal of Honor.

This is an extremely touching slice of life story, which gives a great glimpse of a sailor's life during the late 1800s. I highly recommend this story to anyone interested in character sketches or maritime tales, or, hell, simple human nature. You can access the original story here.

I'd like to close with Avery's words on why he risked his life to save those men:

"I did like the rest of the men that day, and I never expected anything more than my pay and rations. We tried to do our duty, and when we saw the men in the other ship being shot down and some drowning, we could only try to help them. God knows it was hard to see them being murdered without much chance for escape."

Stories worth reading: "Seeing" by Genevieve Valentine

As 2010 wraps up people are already putting together their lists of the year's best novels and stories. I'm no exception and should release my picks for the best stories of the year—and the stories I'll be nominating for the annual awards—in early December.

However, it's worth remembering that the year isn't over and amazing stories are still being published. Case in point: "Seeing" by Genevieve Valentine from the November issue of Clarkesworld Magazine.

"Seeing" focuses on a space explorer attempting to discover a habitable planet for humanity, whose own earth is facing an extremely slow and painful death. If that sounds rather straightforward and something which has been written a thousand times, prepare to be shocked. From the prose to the characterization to the worldview behind the story, Valentine has create a unique look at what not only drives people but at the strangeness lurking everywhere in our universe.

As N.K. Jemisin said in the comments below the story, "Seeing" features "Fantastic characterization, accurate science, literary experimentation that not only works but fits. Delicious." I couldn't agree more. (BTW, Jemisin also has an extremely good story called "On the Banks of the River Lex" in the same issue of Clarkesworld.)

"Seeing" is a story I'd have easily picked for my online SciFi Strange anthology. It will also be on my list of the year's best stories.

A SF story you must look for: Matthew Cook's "The Shoe Factory"

While there are many up and coming authors out there, one of the best is Matthew Cook. I first met Matt a few years ago at the Context Convention in Columbus, Ohio. He was signing copies of his first novel Blood Magic, published by Juno Books. Even though I'm not a big fan of "paranormal romances," which Juno is mainly known for, I picked up a copy.

I was blown away.

As I wrote in my review at that time, the novel is a must read for any fan of fantasy or horror. The sequel, Nights of Sin is even better, taking Matt’s characters onto unforeseen emotional and storytelling grounds. While these novels were marketed under the paranormal romance subgenre, they picked up a much wider readership. The reason for this is Matt's story easily crosses several genres and creates a world and characters which are both totally unique and totally believable. The books did extremely well, becoming two of Juno's best-selling titles and with both being nominated for the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards. (And as a side note, I now believe the books are actually science fiction. But since Matt won't tell me the truth of that, I'll only learn if I'm correct when Matt finishes the series.)

Unfortunately, when Juno was purchased by Pocket Books they were told to focus exclusively on paranormal romance. That meant no more cross-genre books like Matt's. But he's still working on the third and final novel and I'm sure another publisher will eventually jump at the chance to purchase the book.

Until then, Matt has a new story you must read: "The Shoe Factory," which was recently accepted by Interzone.

While it may not be fair to plug something which isn't even out, I love Matt's story too much to keep quiet. I first read this science fiction tale in manuscript form a while back. Even though Matt had asked me for feedback, all I could meekly mutter was that "The Shoe Factory" was simply and utterly great. The story is beautifully written, deeply touching, and presents a view of life crossing both space and time. Over the last year I've reread the story a number of times and it dazzles with each new reading.

I know I harp on SciFi Strange a lot, but Matt's story is a perfect example of the power of this type of fiction. I don't know which issue of Interzone the story will be in, but it should be out soon. If you trust my recommendations, keep an eye out for the story. And if you aren't already a subscriber to Interzone, dang it, make it happen.

"Stone Wall Truth" by Caroline M. Yoachim

Over the last few weeks, I've twice mentioned "Stone Wall Truth" by Caroline M. Yoachim, which was published in the February 2010 edition of Asimov's. The first time was in "Our science fiction isn't your father's SF," where I discussed a review which claimed "the story is a masterpiece, but a masterpiece of fantasy rather than science fiction" (I disagreed and believe the story is a science fiction masterpiece). The other mention was in my "Online SciFi Strange anthology," where I listed the story as a great example of SciFi Strange.

Obviously I love this story. So I'm excited to announce that Yoachim has posted the story online.

This story will definitely be on my short-list for the major awards, and I suggest people read and likewise consider it. The story is as mind-blowing--and disturbing--as science fiction can get.

A great year for science fiction and fantasy novellas

Last night I finished reading The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang and, as usual with Chiang's work, his novella blew me away. Equally amazing is that 2010 has been an excellent year for novella-length fiction, with a number of novellas which will make my short-list for the major awards.

So far my favorites are:

  • The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang, Subterranean Books
    Is it even possible for Ted Chiang to write a less-than-great story? This novella follows the deepening relationships of humans and emergent AIs who were originally created as digital pets. A moving and all-too-possible tale.
  • "A History of Terraforming" by Robert Reed, Asimov's July 2010
    An epic storytelling feat in which a scientist's life parallels the advances and setbacks of both humanity and terraforming.
  • "Becoming One With the Ghosts" by Kathryn Kristine Rusch, Asimov's Oct./Nov. 2010
    This is the story of the Ivoire, a space-going battleship which lands at its repair base only to learn things have gone tragically wrong. A fascinating examination of how time makes ghosts of us all.
  • "Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance" by Paul Park, F&SF, Jan./Feb. 2010
    This offbeat novella is basically a literary memoir which extends its life-exploration into future years. An amazing treat.
  • "The Sultan of the Skies" by Geoffrey A. Landis, Asimov's Sept. 2010
    A near-perfect hard science fiction story set among the clouds of Venus, and also a touching portrait of obsession and unrequited love.
  • "The Union of Soil and Sky" by Gregory Norman Bossert, Asimov's April/May 2010
    This tale of alien archeology is Bossert's first genre publication, and it is a fun and well written debut.

In addition to these novellas, there have also been some excellent novelettes which border on being novella length, including "The Crocodiles" by Steven Popkes from F&SF May/June 2010. And from this list it's obvious Asimov's has been the place to go in 2010 for top-notch novellas.

I'm not sure which of these novellas I'd pick as my top choice for next year's Hugo and Nebula Awards, but it's wonderful to have such an amazing set of choices. And the best thing is 2010's not close to being over.

The Online SciFi Strange Anthology

Note: A year ago I first noticed a new trend in science fiction which I called SciFi Strange. Since then I've been compiling a list of SciFi Strange stories. Hence this online "anthology." Please enjoy.

Introduction to SciFi Strange

SciFi Strange isn't a label. It isn't a definition.  Instead, it's an attempt to describe the science fiction being created by some of today's most exciting writers. These stories combine the literary standards and cultural understandings of the New Wave movement with the basic strangeness and sensawunda from the golden age of science fiction--all seen through the lens of today's multicultural world, where diversity and difference are the norm even as basic human values and needs still bind us together.

SciFi Strange also flirts with the boundaries of what is scientifically--and therefore realistically--possible, without being bounded by the rigid frames of the world as we know it today. But don't call SciFi Strange fantasy. This is pure science fiction. It's merely an updated version of the literature of ideas. A science fiction for a world where the frontiers of scientific possibility are almost philosophical in nature.

Writers of SciFi Strange are a diverse group. Many are new writers who first came to the genre by experiencing science fiction in film and video games--meaning they don't see the term SciFi as derogatory but instead as celebratory. A few have been writing science fiction for decades. Others mainly write fantasy, but cross over into science fiction from time to time. The more established of these authors publish their stories in Fantasy and Science Fiction and Asimov's. The newer ones frequently find homes in Interzone, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Strange Horizons.

Please understand that this is a dream anthology. Unless a publisher offers to actually publish an book along these lines, this is as far as I go. But the stories below are still well worth the read, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

The SciFi Strange Stories

Stories I'd love to include in this "anthology" but which aren't online include

  • "Third Day Lights" by Alaya Dawn Johnson
    Published in Interzone, reprinted in Year's Best SF 11.
  • "Skinner's Room" by William Gibson
    An older story, but still one which fits with SciFi Strange. Gibson later revisited this short story in his Bridge trilogy.
  • "Làzaro y Antonio" by Marta Randall
    Published in F&SF.

If you know any stories which would make a good addition to this online anthology, please add them in the comments below.

Our science fiction isn't your father's SF

The February 2010issue of Asimov's contains an amazing story in "Stone Wall Truth" by Caroline M. Yoachim. This story is set in a far future village which exists alongside the ancient remnants of a high-technology wall. When a new ruler takes control of the land, he sends his vanquished foes to this village, where they are cut open and strung to a wall. The wall not only keeps these people alive but reveals to them their inner devils and hells. Once that is done, the person is sewn back together and allowed to live--if people can truly live after having witnessed the darkness within the minds and souls of all humans.

This is one of those rare stories I immediately reread upon finish it. In fact, I felt the same way reading this story as I did last year about Eugie Foster's novelette "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" (which won a well-deserved Nebula Award and is a finalist for the Hugo). Like Foster's novelette, Yoachim's story also struck me as a perfect example of SciFi Strange and will be on my list of the year's best stories. But that said, I also knew many science fiction fans would have the same issue with Yoachim's story as with the other SciFi Strange stories I love. Because every single aspect of the story isn't explained, for many people a story like this simply can't be called science fiction.

Sure enough, when I looked for reviews on the story I found these comments in Tangent Online by Carl Slaughter. While Carl praises the story, he asks "What is the source of the wall's power?  The author doesn't say.  We don't discover the origin and nature of the wall.  Nor the identity of the Ancients who built it, nor the time and place of the story.  Thus the story is a masterpiece, but a masterpiece of fantasy rather than science fiction."

That review drives me crazy with its narrow view on what qualifies as science fiction (although I totally agree with Carl that the story is a masterpiece). The truth is there are many accepted tropes in science fiction which are not technically possible or can't be accurately explained, including faster than light travel, time travel, dimensional travel and so on. However, if an author uses these tropes in their story they're okay and still writing science fiction. But if an author tries to explore a possible future technology but don't explain said technology in mind-numbing detail, they aren't SF.

I have a mouth and I must scream! Which, by the way, refers to another famous science fiction story which doesn't explain how everything works. I mean, a computer the size of a planet which can trap people inside it for all eternity? Provide me a précis on how that is possible under what we currenty know about science and technology. It isn't. But Ellison's classic story is still pure science fiction.

Part of the problem is that the science fiction genre has become too narrow in what it accepts as legitimate SF. We live in a world where our most advanced theoretical sciences like quantum mechanics are almost philosophical in nature. But instead of allowing our science fiction to be as equally free to explore the universe, we box it in. And ironically, we're not even consistent in how we do this. For example, people screamed when the last Star Trek film tripped into the red matter realm, but they didn't say a word about universal translators, transporters, and Spock being the offspring of two totally different alien species. But all these conventions are accepted as SF without a second thought.

This is made even more amusing when you consider that the science in many older SF classics was flat out wrong when the authors originally wrote them. For example, in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, the book opens with the discovery that Mars is inhabited, and even mentions Martian canals. Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles deals with a similarly occupied Mars. However, when the authors wrote those science fiction classics it was known to science that Mars was a hostile environment which did not contain advanced life. So why were those books accepted as being part of the SF genre?

Likewise, in Gene Wolfe's classic Book of the New Sun series, the science and setting are so far in the future that the science behind everything is more fantasy than real.  Again, the science isn't explained to the Nth degree, but the books are accepted as being science fiction.

What these examples prove is that being part of the science fiction genre is about more than simply writing accurately about science. It is also about exploring ideas and visions and possible futures. So why the different standard when new writers like Yoachim and Foster do that very thing? I have yet to read a convincing explanation for this divide.

I suspect that just as science has expanded into disconcerting places in the last decade, some people are disturbed by where science fiction is going these days. So they simply wave their hand and state that certain stories can't possibly be science fiction.

Which is too bad. Because while our science fiction may not be your father's SF, all these stories belong to the same genre.

My review of Dark Faith, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon

My review of the Dark Faith anthology, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, is now up at SF Signal.

While people can read the review for the specifics, overall this is an excellent collection with several stories which rank among the year's best, including "Ghosts of New York" by Jennifer Pelland, "Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch's Damnation" by Douglas F. Warrick, and especially Gary A. Braunbeck's "For My Next Trick I'll Need A Volunteer."

My early picks for the best stories of the year

I've been way lazy on mentioning the stories which have caught my attention this year. Here is a preliminary list of stories I consider among the best of 2010. Obviously I'll be adding to this list as the year goes on.

  • "A History of Terraforming" by Robert Reed, Asimov's July 2010. An epic storytelling feat. Will definitely make my Nebula Award short-list as one of the best novellas of the year.
  • "Stone Wall Truth" by Caroline Yoachim, Asimov's Feb. 2010. In this far-future tale, a technology people no longer understand allows prisoners to be literally cut open and exposed to the truth of who they are. A beautifully spun tale of politics and life, and a perfect example of SciFi Strange.
  • "In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty" by Mercurio D. Rivera, Interzone 226. A continuation of Rivera's "Longing for Langalana" story about an alien species deeply in love with humanity. A fascinating idea backed up by great storytelling.
  • "A Passion For Art" by David D. Levine, Interzone 228. A disturbing tale about where an obsessive passion for art leads if your passion shines through selfish eyes.
  • "The Crocodiles" by Steven Popkes, F&SF May/June 2010. An even more disturbing tale combining the Nazis, the Holocaust, and zombies. The story is repulsive yet refuses to let you go. Do not expect happiness here, but do expect an amazing read.
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. After winning the Nebula Award for The Windup Girl, Bacigalupi returns with a young adult novel that's among the year's best. As with Bacigalupi's adult fiction, this novel of an not-so-happy future is compelling and full of sympathetic characters the reader quickly falls in love with.

Interzone Readers' Poll Selections

The Interzone Readers' Poll is running now through March 31. Readers can see all the eligible works, and vote for or against the stories and art, over on the Interzone Readers' Poll page.

Last year I was honored to have my story "When Thorns Are the Tips of Trees" win the Readers' Poll. This year I have two stories eligible: My novella "Sublimation Angels" (available at that link as a PDF download) and the short story "Here We Are, Falling Through Shadows."

Obviously I won't be voting for my own stories in the award. My positive votes for stories are:

  • "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" by Eugie Foster, which made the BSFA Award shortlist for best short fiction and is doing well in nominations in the Nebula Award's novelette category. (Note to Nebula and BSFA voters: Read this story and vote for it!). This was one of my favorite stories of 2009, for reasons explained in my original review. This is the story I expect to win the Readers' Poll.
  • "No Longer You" by Katherine Sparrow and Rachel Swirsky.
  • "The Festival of Tethselem" by Chris Butler.
  • "The Godfall's Chemsong" by Jeremiah Tolbert.
  • "The Killing Streets" by Colin Harvey.
  • "Memory Dust" by Gareth L. Powell.
  • "By Starlight" by Rebecca J. Payne.

My positive votes for the art are

I could have voted for more stories, but decided to limit myself to seven. I also decided not to cast any negative votes this year because none of the Interzone stories really rubbed me wrong. Interzone remains my favorite SF/F magazine, and 2009 will go down as one of their best years ever.

My final nominations for the 2009 Nebula Awards

Back in November, I made a few initial nominations for the Nebula Awards because I wanted to bring early attention to deserving stories and novels. But I still had a few spaces left on my nomination ballot--you can nominate up to five stories or novels in each category--so after additional reading I've added more stories to the mix.

Here are my final nominations:

Short story



  • "Arkfall" by Carolyn Ives Gilman, F&SF, September 2008. Read my original review here.
  • "The God Engines" by John Scalzi, Subterranean Press, 2009.


  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. See my review here. If this novel does not make the final ballot, it will be a true shame.
  • Green by Jay Lake.
  • The Walls of the Universe by Paul Melko.
  • Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Bradbury Award

  • Moon, film by Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker.
  • Avatar, film by James Cameron.
  • Coraline, film by Henry Selick.
  • Ponyo, film by Hayao Miyazaki.
  • Up, film by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter.

Andre Norton Award

  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente.
  • Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. Read my original review here. And you should know my son threatened me if I didn't add this book to my list (but I was going to anyway).
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore.

The Nebula Award nominating period runs through Feb. 15. I hope people will check out the stories and novels listed here--I can't recommend them enough--and make their own nominations before the deadline.

A Story Worth Reading: Richard McKenna's "The Secret Place"

My local library has a large collection of science fiction anthologies from the 1960s and 70s, and in Nebula Award Stories 2 is an amazing story you maybe haven't read, Richard McKenna's "The Secret Place."

McKenna was a sailor and writer best known for his novel The Sand Pebbles, set on a navy gunboat in 1930's China and made into a 1966 Hollywood film. But McKenna was also a well-respected science fiction author, and "The Secret Place" shows him as a master of the short story form.

The story follows the work of a geology assistant, part of a team searching for uranium in the desert near Barker, Oregon, during World War II. The only reason the team is there is because a local boy was found dead in the desert a decade before holding a sack of gold and a crystal of uranium oxide. But the lead geologist knows this search is a waste of time--the desert here simply doesn't contain either gold or uranium. Still, the team works on because the Army has ordered them to.

Eventually the assistant is left behind to carry on the pretense of a search. At this point he runs head-long into the myths of this desert region. The locals aren't happy with outsiders attempting to find their mythical mine, or to prove it doesn't exist. The dead boy's sister, who played fairy games with him in the desert, knows much more than she is capable of saying. As the assistant geologist flings himself closer to the truth, pursuing his own cruel ideas of what this game means, science and myth spin into worlds he can't possible understand.

"The Secret Place" is amazing, and well deserving of the Nebula Award for Best Short Story it won in 1966. Unfortunately, the story was published posthumously, as McKenna died two years before of a heart attack. This is a shame, as one can't help but wonder what McKenna would have written had he lived. "The Secret Place" could stand with the best literary short stories even if published today, and anticipated by more than 20 years the fusion of psychological myth and literary writing Robert Holdstock used to such great effect in his Mythago Wood series.

My nominations for the 2009 Nebula Awards

At 4:30 am this morning the SFWA sent out the voting instructions for the Nebula Awards. Basically, until February 15th SFWA members can nominated eligible stories online through the SFWA website. Here's a direct link to the ballot, but you'll have to log in to see it. You can also see the running tally here.

Because the nominating rules were recently changed, there is a bit of a holdover in that stories "which received at least five (5) recommendations under the previous Nebula Awards rules and were published after July 1, 2008, but didn't make the 2008 Preliminary Ballot get to have those nominations added to their total for this year." This means "The Political Prisoner" by Charles Coleman Finlay now has 6 nominations for best novella (see note below) and "I Remember the Future" by Michael A Burstein has 5 for best short story.

For anyone interested in what other stories and books might be up for the Nebula awards, check out the Nebula Suggested Reading. Many thanks to the unknown people who suggested my short story "When Thorns Are The Tips Of Trees" (available at that link as a PDF download; originally published in Interzone, but eligible for the Nebula by being reprinted in Apex Magazine, May 2009).

Since I have several months to make my nominations, I will likely add to the following list. But until then, here are my nominations. And yes, I think everyone should vote for these stories and novels.

Short story



  • "The Political Prisoner" by Charles Coleman Finlay, F&SF Aug. 2008. Please note that I nominated this novella last year; under the rules, I can't nominate it again since last year's nomination still counts. But I still urge others to consider it. Update: It turns out this novella was on last year's final ballot, so isn't eligible for this year's. SFWA is correcting this error.


  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. See my review here.
  • Green by Jay Lake.
  • The Walls of the Universe by Paul Melko.

As you can see, I made no nominations for the Bradbury or Norton awards. I'll try to fix this in the coming months.

Story of the Week: "The Radio Magician" by James Van Pelt

My new story of the week is "The Radio Magician" by James Van Pelt, from the February 2009 issue of Realms of Fantasy. Set in that border time between the Great Depression and the start of World War II, the story follows the life of Charlie, a young boy who has been crippled by polio. Unable to run and play like all kids should, Charlie's favorite moment of each day is listening to Professor Gilded's Glorious Magical Extravaganza on the local radio station.

Charlie wonders how the Professor can do such magical wonders, and refuses to listen to his mother's logic, who says that since they can't see what the magician does over the radio, how do they know it isn't all a trick? And that is the point of this wonderful story--how do you know which reality is truly reality, and which are simply one of the various realities you continually create in life? Both deeply touching and deeply illuminating, this story is a magical treat to behold.

Story of the Week: "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" by Eugie Foster

Iz220coverMy new story of the week is "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" by Eugie Foster from Interzone issue 220. This far future science fiction tale is an exploration of self identity and the masks we all wear in public. But in this case, the masks are not some silly metaphor but actuality, as Eugie's society has evolved so the wearing of these complex disguises--which not only change a person's character, but also their very souls--is mandatory.

Perhaps it would be fun to be another person on occasion, to not have to take responsibility for one's actions by literally claiming that the mask made you do it. But what is the cost to your soul when you change your very being day after day? When you can no longer even find the real you? Eugie explores these questions in a beautifully written and fast-paced tale which is certain to be on many of the year's best lists.

As an aside, this month's Interzone has one of the most beautiful SF covers I've seen in some time. Created by Adam Tredowski, the cover has already created calls on the TTA Press forums for a poster-sized version. And as a final side note about Interzone, TTA Press has contracted with a new shipping company, which fixed their previously delivery problems and caused my issue of IZ 220 to reach here within five days of publication. As Andy Cox says in the editorial of this issue, the current exchange rate makes this a great time for people overseas to subscribe. I totally agree.