A Look at the Nebula Award Finalists

The Nebula Awards® nominees for best science fiction or fantasy in 2014 have been announced. The prestigious awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Since 1965, the Nebula Awards have been given each year for the best novel, novella, novelette, and short story eligible for that year’s award.

Here is a marketing blurb for each of the nominated novels, followed by a quick list of nominees in the other three original categories. (For a complete list of all nominees, see SFWA’s site HERE.) As always, this is a great way to discover new stories regarded highly by folks that appreciate the fantasy and science-fiction genres.

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne–or his life.

Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor is an exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)

When reluctant interstellar diplomat and intelligence operative Caine Riordan returns from humanity’s first encounter with alien races, sudden war clouds burst. With Earth’s fleet shattered by a sneak attack and its survivors fighting for their lives, Caine must rely upon both his first contact and weaponry skills to contend with the non-humanoid enemy. And when the technologically-superior attackers sweep aside the solar system’s last defenses, and traitorous corporations invite the invaders to land ‘security forces,’ humanity fights back with its best weapons: cunning, inventiveness, and guts.

But as Earth hurtles towards a final trial by fire that is certain to scar its collective memory, Caine discovers that there may also be large and disturbing gaps in that memory. Clues point to a much earlier inter-species apocalypse, buried in humanity’s own prehistory. Which raises a terrifying possibility: what if the aliens’ invasion of Earth is not one of conquest, but preemption? And what if their harrowing memories of a long-past cataclysmic war makes them willing to do anything to keep it from reigniting?

Even if that means exterminating the human race.

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

Breq is a soldier who used to be a warship. Once a weapon of conquest controlling thousands of minds, now she has only a single body and serves the emperor.

With a new ship and a troublesome crew, Breq is ordered to go to the only place in the galaxy she would agree to go: to Athoek Station to protect the family of a lieutenant she once knew – a lieutenant she murdered in cold blood.

The sequel to Ancillary Justice, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction, Locus and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)

Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)

Thousands of years ago, artifacts of the early space age were lost to rising oceans and widespread turmoil. Garnett Baylee devoted his life to finding them, only to give up hope. Then, in the wake of his death, one was found in his home, raising tantalizing questions. Had he succeeded after all? Why had he kept it a secret? And where is the rest of the Apollo cache?

Antiquities dealer Alex Benedict and his pilot, Chase Kolpath, have gone to Earth to learn the truth. But the trail seems to have gone cold, so they head back home to be present when the Capella, the interstellar transport that vanished eleven years earlier in a time/space warp, is expected to reappear. With a window of only a few hours, rescuing it is of the utmost importance. Twenty-six hundred passengers—including Alex’s uncle, Gabriel Benedict, the man who raised him—are on board.

Alex now finds his attention divided between finding the artifacts and anticipating the rescue of the Capella. But time won’t allow him to do both. As the deadline for the Capella’s reappearance draws near, Alex fears that the puzzle of the artifacts will be lost yet again. But Alex Benedict never forgets and never gives up—and another day will soon come around…

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

NOVELLA

  • We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
  • Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
  • “The Regular” by Ken Liu (Upgraded)
  • “The Mothers of Voorhisville” by Mary Rickert (Tor.com)
  • Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion)
  • “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)

NOVELETTE

  • “Sleep Walking Now and Then” by Richard Bowes (Tor.com)
  • “The Magician and Laplace’s Demon” by Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld)
  • “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF)
  • “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado (Granta)
  • “We Are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed)
  • “The Devil in America” by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com)

SHORT STORY

  • “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • “When It Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction)
  • “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” by Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)
  • “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide” by Sarah Pinsker (F&SF)
  • “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex)
  • “The Fisher Queen” by Alyssa Wong (F&SF)
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