Jeff VanderMeer
Nebula Award Nominee
Shirley Jackson Award Nominee

There has been some talk in the science fiction community that the next target for the Sad Puppies might be the Nebulas.

For myself, I highly doubt it. First of all, even though it takes far fewer votes1 to get on the Nebula ballot, the Nebulas are nominated and voted entirely by the members of SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America. Talk about insiders. This is actually a fairly exclusive group of people, and a small enough that a lot of us know one another personally.

Thing is, it’s actually fairly difficult to become a Nebula voting member of SFWA and, possibly more importantly if you believe the “Sad Puppy Data Analysis,” they would be bereft of their highly effective Rabid Puppy ally, Vox Day, because he was one of two people, EVER, to be forcibly kicked out of SFWA.

Similarly, on a personal level, since they changed how SFWA accepts nominations, I find it kind of baffling to actually do the process of nominating. There are passwords and forums involved now and I am an old lady who can’t always figure out Twitter. I used to only have to shoot an email to the Nebula coordinator with the pertinent info from a member-valid email. While I miss the old way, you can see why the change. The Nebula nomination process is far more protected from hack this way.

That being said, the Nebula is also the science fiction version of the Cannes Film Festival. The Nebula nominees come out significantly sooner than the Hugo and often end up reflecting the current science fiction gestalt, if you will. Two of the books up for the Nebula, The Goblin Emperor and Ancillary Sword, for instance, had far too much momentum to be barred from the Hugo novel list, despite Puppy interference. Similarly, when Marcus Kloos asked for his book Lines of Departure to be removed from the Hugo ballot, it was no surprise to many of us that Three-Body Problem, another Nebula nominee, rose up to take its place.

Therefor, I suspect that VanderMeer’s Annihilation might have been a Hugo contender as well.

The Puppies like to complain about a cadre of cool kids. Jeff VanderMeer might be one. Even if he’s not, he’s one of those people whose career arc seems very enviable—at least from this side of it.

Thus, I have to shamefully admit, I didn’t expect to like Annihilation nearly as much as I did. As you might guess from the Shirley Jackson award nomination it picked up as well, this book is highly atmospheric and psychological. Reading it reminded me, pleasantly, of hours spent trying to decipher the video game Myst. Maybe that sounds like damning with faint praise, but I felt like VanderMeer had something that some of the other Nebula Nominees, IMHO, lacked. Heart.

The core of the mystery of this deeply creepy science fiction story is a relationship and, particularly, two people’s very different experiences of love and the ways in which they failed each other… and succeeded. I actually have a tiny bit of moisture in my eye at one point, which I won’t spoil, but involved one half of the couple working to think like the other and leaving behind what amounted to an amazing, thoughtful gift.

If you can cope with creepy (and some people can’t), I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It skirts the edges of horror in a way I found I deeply enjoyed.

As for the Nebula, I can’t say anything about the votes I cast, but, well… this one was definitely up there on my list.

  1. Anecdotal, but personal: I, myself, made the Nebula preliminary ballot (back when we had such things) with no more than a dozen votes. It took a lot more to get on the actual ballot, so I was never, officially, a Nebula nominee.

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