Science fiction can be great, but it is often just so damn flat, predictable, and derivative these days. The slow convergence between fan fiction and original literature has taken place within this genre much faster than anywhere else, and unless these writers turn off their TVs fast, they are soon going to find themselves out of jobs, or doing nothing but writing merchandising tie-in novels to whatever hour-long drama has spaceships this week.
And then who will the TV writers rip off? The story market will crash!
Substituting reference for content in a speculative market is like buying your own products to inflate your sales data!
At its worst, bad science fiction reifies troublesome cultural mores and prejudices by showing how these assumptions will persist unaltered and unchallenged into the future, and by not giving the future the breathing space it needs to be goddamn weird, goddamn impossible, and goddamn open to change.
At its best, science fiction can be my favorite thing to read.
Anyway, here are this year's winners and links to where you can read them for free, if available.
# Best Novella: "The Spacetime Pool," by Catherine Asaro
You can read it here, at Analog.
You can also read it here, serialized with pictures at Catherine Asaro's facebook page.
This is a story about a mathematician who passes through a time portal into a world where women have no power and where ancient kingdoms are dueling over a prophecy and love and shit.
"A white beach stretched around her, dazzling in the bright day. Waves crashed a few yards away, and their swells glinted in the slanting rays from the Sun, which was low in the sky. The ocean stretched to the horizon, wide, blue, and endless.
"What the blazes?" Janelle spun around -- in time to see the man appear out of thin air.
He came out of nothing, taking a long, slow step. His progress was slowed to a surreal speed, and his body flickered as if he were a projection of light. It couldn't be real. He had to be doing this with mirrors. Either that, or she had overworked herself in school more than she realized, and her mind was lodging a protest by wigging out."
Get ready for Riemann sheets, and Fourier transforms, and handsome princes and beeyootiful princesses. Get ready, ya'll.
# Best Novelette: "Pride and Prometheus," by John Kessel
You can read it here, at John Kessel's website.
Or you can listen here and here, where Mr. Kessel will read it for you.
John Kessel combines "Frankenstein" and "Pride and Prejudice." Remember Mary in "Pride and Prejudice?" The girl who read too many books and who didn't have a sense of humor and was sure to die a virgin? WHAT IF SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN WHEN SHE CAME OF AGE?
# Best Short Story: "Trophy Wives," by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
You can read it here, at Penguin.
Or you can listen to it here, at StarShipSofa.
Credit wands, perberries, technomalls. This is your traditional science-fiction pastiche: a story about old problems with new words -- in this case harem culture and bond slavery. This story is a huge, horrible mess -- but parts of it are enjoyable. A pair of bonded slaves rescue other slaves or convince their benevolent master to buy them out from bad contracts. The best part is how these alien toads keep their wives in bubbles and give them their favorite foods until they grow immensely fat and horrible to see. As soon as the slaves "wrinkle," they are given a parting gift and set free!
# Best Novel: "Powers," by Ursula K. Le Guin
This is the third novel in Le Guin's "Western Shore" series. Each novel is about a person with terrible gifts who must come to terms with their abilities in order to benefit their communities or escape them. This one is about Gavir, a slave boy who has the ability to "remember" the future and who wants to be a writer when he grows up.
Reading a book by Le Guin is like climbing a moss-covered hill and then stretching out your hand to curl your fingers around swirling mist and to charge it with a mystical crackle. The land opens up in a jagged rift at your feet and you kick off your sandals and burrow down inside the ground. For a day and a night, you wear the soft, spongy earth (raw life) like a healing, soothing blanket. You sleep, and you dream, and the land rises and falls with your long, slow breaths.
At this point, it seems like there is no prize good enough to match her wit, cunning, skill, craft, and artistry at this damned old incubus, fiction. "Lifetime Achievement" awards are cold and condescending: what can the world give her to show its unrepayable debt?
This is Le Guin's sixth Nebula award. Instead of a statue and some cash, she deserves her own planet teeming with emotional protoplasm where she may shape a new soul for a world that needs healing. After the apocalypse, I nominate her Collected Works as our new Holy Book.
You can't read "Powers" for free. I recommend you buy "Powers" along with the rest of her "Western Shore" books, read them, and then pass them along to your local junior high.
Posted by miracle on Sat, 02 May 2009 17:30:26 -0400 -- permanent link