For the past 58 years, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) has presented the Nebula Awards. The finalists for the best works in 2022 in seven categories have been announced. The awards will be presented on Sunday, May 14, streaming live from Anaheim, CA, as part of the 2023 Nebula Conference Online. Winners are determined by the vote of SFWA members.
I’m a member of SFWA, and I’ve read all the works in the short story category. Congratulations to the finalists! Every one of them is worth reading. There’s a bit more horror than in some years, and a bit of romance.
Here are my thoughts and my choice, with links to the stories available online. My criteria: Which story takes the most risk?
“Dick Pig” by Ian Muneshwar (Nightmare 1/22) – The heir to a house, possibly haunted, struggles against family conflicts, told with unsettling honesty. Haunted houses are commonplace, but the visceral, coarse intensity of the narrator pushes this story into risky territory.
“D.I.Y” by John Wiswell (Tor.com 8/24/22) – Two young self-taught magicians try to end a drought and wind up facing corporate greed. As usual with John Wiswell, there’s kindness, hope, humor, and a touch of sharp-eyed irony and cynicism. The two young magicians slowly dare to show their vulnerability toward each other: the story is about taking risks.
“Douen” by Suzan Palumbo (The Dark 3/22) – A dead girl becomes a kind of ghost, struggling with the pain and loneliness of death. The story is set in Trinidad and Tobago culture and told in Creole. It shouldn’t be a risk to assert that non-White-centric culture has value and interest, should it?
“Destiny Delayed” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (Asimov’s 5–6/22) – Destiny can be taken from people, literally, and like anything of value, it becomes a commodity subject to corruption. The ending shows us what exactly is delayed. At risk is the reader’s hope.
“Give Me English” by Ai Jiang (F&SF 5–6/22) – Words are currency, and somehow, the exchange rate is always unfavorable to the poor. An immigrant to the New York from China loses her native Chinese and her English word by word while others acquire words she could never afford. Jiang explores a new idea, always a risk, and the result is effective and c____.
My choice: “Rabbit Test” by Samantha Mills (Uncanny 11–12/22) – The entire history of abortion is told as dystopia — which it is (I’ve been living it my whole life). This story made me angry, but not at the author. The story-telling style takes risks, braiding in different characters from different historical times, staying true to history while creating rich characters.