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Nebula Winners: 15 (Nebula Awards Showcase) Hardcover – March, 1981
100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime
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Short Stories about 15 pages
Novelettes about 30 pages
Novellas about 60 pages
These works can easily vary by plus or minus 10 pages so it's a general rule of thumb. Now because these shorter non-novel works are complete stories they have a beginning, middle and end, and their pacing varies and give them their own uniqueness. In a 10 page short story, a writer has to get to the point quickly and wrap things up. For this particular year, 1979, this system is wonderfully noticeable for these written gems. The novella winner, Enemy Mine by Barry Longyear, stands as the best novella I've ever personally read. Don't bother watching the movie by the same name, it somewhat follows the plot, but misses the spirit of this well written piece. It's about two soldiers on opposing sides, and different species, that abhor each other, but end up on a desolate planet alone, and have to rely on each other to survive. In the course of this, they learn and get to respect each others culture. Written in the same decade as the American pullout of Vietnam, it served, I thought, as a great decade ending consolidation as a allegory to the Vietnam War. In some ways it's almost too bad this was only a novella, because there is definitely enough here to lengthen to a novel, and novels tend to bring more recognition to a written work.
The novelette award winner, Sandkings by George R.R. Martin, has strong horror genre undertones, but is another incredibly well written, creative and imaginative work. It's about four races of a sentient and mildly telepathic crablike species, that can be seen to have complex alliances and wars. However, as is not uncommon in science fiction, it takes this scenario to the extreme.
The short story winner, giANTS by Edward Bryant, takes its theme from the 1950's movie, Them!, about giant house sized ants. Them! probably isn't shown that much on TV any more. It was one of the better 1950's horror/science fiction movies that came out. For the story though, you only need to know that, well, it was about giant ants and had as main characters an older profession, his 20ish or so daughter, and a cop or other authority figure. The story considers the realistic scientific possibility of giant ants as well as a touching love interest story that doesn't wrap up until the very end. It had to be difficult to award the short story for that year, because also included in the volume is a runner up Nebula nominee, the incredible Unaccompanied Sonata by Orson Scott Card. This story is similar in a way to the science fiction classic short story, Harrison Bergeron. Orson Scott Card went on a few years later to write his stunning Enders Game (actually he wrote a novelette that lead to it in 1977) and here he's at his best in this short story. Normally I don't read the non-award winners due mostly to lack of time, but I highly recommend reading this piece. Briefly, it's about how the keys to the controls of a society are given to those that have the most reason to hate the system. Can any `perfect' society be truly perfect? Is is worth the price?
Enemy Mine and Sandkings also won the Hugo Awards for that year, a sign at that time of truly high quality works. It is most unfortunate that this Nebula Winners volume is out of print, because it contains all of these great works together and to locate them separately will take effort.
In a way, it is fitting that these works came out in 1979, because they are at the peak, and wrap up the style and spirit, of 1970's science fiction, a decade that saw many advances to the genre. In the 80's, science fiction takes several abrupt turns, which some might call turns for the worse. Do what you can to read this collection, check it out of the library, go to used book stories, buy it used on-line. It is well worth it.