My choice for the Nebula Award for Short Story

As a member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, I can vote for the Nebula Awards. Usually I focus on the shorter works  — short stories, novelettes, and novellas —  due to time constraints and because these categories tend to attract fewer voters, so my vote matters more.

The 57th Annual Nebula Awards will be presented on May 21 during the Nebula Conference Online. Although the conference is for paid attendees, the award presentation will be live-streamed.

The nominees for short story present a solid ballot. I’m frustrated that I can only vote for one because a six-way tie isn’t an option. Here’s a brief evaluation of each finalist, ending with my choice, but every story is worth reading, and your choice might be different.

“Let All the Children Boogie” by Sam J. Miller (Tor.com 1/6/21) – Two misfit teenagers meet and fall in love as they try to find the source of some mysterious radio interference. Intense emotion faces the unknown in a hostile environment, but with 21st century values in a 20th century setting. The ending sort of fades away, but the story lingers.

“For Lack of a Bed” by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots 4/21) – As someone with arthritis, I love the way this story centers on chronic pain and a supernatural cure. I’d give a lot for that bed. I also love the way friends help each other out. Overall, a heartwarming story about the importance of friendship.

“Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/21) – No spoilers, but this story is sweet, heartfelt, and lovely, which I didn’t see coming. A Junior Reaper of Death must take a toddler “across the river” to join the cosmos, and it’s just too hard.

“Laughter Among the Trees” by Suzan Palumbo (The Dark 2/21) – An intense horror story about a sister who gets lost in the woods. Complex emotions are skillfully portrayed, especially survivor guilt.

“Proof by Induction” by José Pablo Iriarte (Uncanny 5–6/21) – A son and a simulacrum of his father work together after the father’s death to solve a mathematics hypothesis, a process that isn’t emotionally satisfying for the son. The story was emotionally moving to me as a reader, though.

“Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 3–4/21) – An online group debates and investigates the meaning of a traditional song. The storytelling format is untraditional and effective. This is my pick because I like to reward experimentation.

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