In this post, I discuss three more Nebula nominees. I actually read two of them a while back but didn’t write down my thoughts.
“Shipbirth,” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s Science Fiction, February 2011). A powerful tale that uses its “Aztecs in space” setting to examine assumptions about gender, life, compassion and empathy. What I like the most about it is its unflinching refusal to put its protagonist in a neat box. More fiction in general (and spec-fic in particular) should try to achieve this. Be sure to read the author notes, which are very enlightening.
“The Old Equations,” by Jake Kerr (Lightspeed Magazine, July 2011). An alternate history-of-science tale in which relativity isn’t discovered/confirmed until we try to send someone on an interstellar journey and notice the time dilation. The story’s premise allows us to see the device of time dilation, a staple in SF, through fresh eyes and to experience the emotional wonder anew with the characters. Amazingly, this is Jake Kerr’s first published story. You cannot debut in a better way.
“The Migratory Pattern of Dancers”, by Katherine Sparrow (Giganotosaurus, July 2011). In the future, after the extinction of migratory birds, men modified to be like birds recreate their dance. I think of this as more fantasy than scifi, but it works very well on a symbolic level. I admire this piece especially because it breaks so many rules and yet soars anyway. I wish more of us could pull this off.