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May 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Nebula Awards Showcase by Nancy Kress
Roc / Penguin Putnam Trade: ISBN0451459091 PubDate: April 1, 2003
Review by Edward Carmien

304 pages List price 14.95
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Reviewers of earlier editions of this now-yearly collection of Nebula Award winning stories have stolen all my best lines: “Would serve well as a one-volume text for a course in science fiction,” said The New York Review of Science Fiction of some earlier volume in the series. True.

But first, a necessary caveat. I belong to the SWFA. This anthology collects some of the winners of the Nebula Award in various categories. The Nebula is awarded according to a complex nomination process that with a vote by the members. Reader beware: my statements may reflect a bias.

That being said, this is an excellent collection, with strengths that take it beyond a typical anthology of short fiction. While not all of the fiction here will suit every reader, some of the fiction is sure to suit almost every reader (one must allow room for the inevitable curmudgeon, mustn’t one?).

The fiction runs from good to great (again, an individual assessment). Severna Park’s “The Cure For Everything” is unpredictable and witty; Jack Williamson’s “The Ultimate Earth” is a well-assembled tale that harkens back to the golden age of science fiction in many respects. I found “Louise’s Ghost” by Kelly Link to be the kind of story I disliked immediately upon finishing it but liked tremendously the next day after I’d thought about it a bit (can’t tell you more without spoiling the effect, sorry!). James Patrick Kelly’s “Undone” has a wicked twist that might take more than one reading to appreciate, while Mike Resnick’s “The Elephants on Neptune” has a scary inevitability about it that will make you wonder why you are bothering to finish reading it, all the while so caught in its web that it is impossible not to read it to the very end. Only a portion of Catherine Asaro’s The Quantum Rose (Nebula “best novel” winner) is included. Caution: this fragment will surely make many readers wish to acquire the book in order to finish the tale.

If that was all this anthology offered, it would be a good buy for readers of science fiction and fantasy literature who wish to “keep up with the Joneses,” particularly in the area of short fiction. But wait. There’s more. Kress takes her job as editor very seriously. Accordingly, there are non-fiction articles by such stellar names as Landis, Edelman, Bisson, Duncan, Klasky, Datlow, Turtledove, and Cassutt. They provide interesting views on what constitutes hard and soft to medium viscosity science fiction, humor in science fiction, three flavors of fantasy, alternate history, and sf/f on screens large and small. An impressive collection of short yet pithy observations from professionals in the business, it is this material that really makes this anthology shine.

But wait, as the saying goes on shill TV, there’s more! The Rhysling Awards are the poetry equivalent of the Nebulas. Of the two winners, Joe Haldeman is the more familiar name. The other winner, Bruce Boston, has talents that have been recognized outside the sf/f field (Pushcart Prize! Whoa!).

Gentle reader, you’ve guessed my now I liked this anthology. True, I have a strong bias in favor of the content, as it was produced by my SFWA colleagues (and I participated in the voting process that selected them). Also true, however, is the fact I’ve found a textbook for a science fiction course I’ll be teaching this fall. Great stories, excellent non-fiction elements that save lots of rooting around for sources, and a list of all Nebula winners (dating back to 1965), itself a handy resource in the classroom—what else could one ask for?

OK, OK, enough about chocolate and the lottery. All I ask is for a better quality book (this one is printed on something next to newsprint) and for the most excellent and praiseworthy Nancy Kress to do the job again next year.

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