A novelette is, by the rules for the Nebula Awards, a story of at least 7,500 words but fewer than 17,500 words. As a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, I’ve read all six finalists and ranked them from my least favorite to the one that got my vote for the 2019 Nebula Award.
Although every novelette was competently written and received enough votes to become a finalist, I’m a little disappointed with this year’s selection. Good, yes, but great? I don’t think so. Some of the stories seemed formulaic: the characters worked themselves into a situation with a problem, which they solved, and the story ended without further ado. No wisdom was wrested at great price, no storytelling technique pushed the genre or displayed exceptional skill, big ideas and wrenching changes weren’t explored, and the plot moved along well enough but without gripping urgency — the story did not become greater than the sum of its words.
Of course, your opinions may vary.
“The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 7-8/19)
A mystery writer finds a man dead, apparently in an accident, and learns the truth. The story never develops much tension, and it’s resolved too easily.
“His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal (Tor.com 1/23/19)
A kind-hearted circus performer rescues a slave and angers a goddess. This turns out to be a simple, straightforward, sentimental story of loyalty, responsibility, and love, but nothing more.
“For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com 7/10/19)
A cat battles Satan for the soul of a poet. Light and humorous, this is the most stylish of the stories on the ballot, and perfect for cat lovers.
“The Archronology of Love” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed 4/19)
Everyone in a colony on a distant planet died while investigating strange alien technology, and researchers have come to find out why. Some of the dead were loved ones. In a way, the story is one long, slow goodbye — or rather, the search for a way to say goodbye.
“A Strange Uncertain Light” by G.V. Anderson (F&SF 7-8/19)
This classic ghost story is set in rural England in 1938 and a century earlier. To say more might be a spoiler. Every trope seems to be touched, but with subtle twists, and a strong sense of characters and place with plenty of suspense. It’s a close second to the story that won my vote.
MY VOTE: Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo (Meerkat)
A young woman inherits her grandmother’s homes, knowing that her grandmother was both a magician and a hoarder. She hopes to find treasure in the rooms packed with old stuff, and she finds the unexpected. The first half explores the fractured family relationships without haste, and the second half speeds to a climax as the pieces fit together.