The wave of conversation about diversity and representation in fiction is about to crest again: Ladies swept this year’s Nebula Awards, handed out this past weekend in Chicago.
All of the fiction awards — for short story, novelette, novella, novel, and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult novels — went to girls authors, and Mad Max: Fury Road (a film NPR’s Chris Kilmek known as a “boldly feminist chase flick”) won the Ray Bradbury Award for dramatic presentation. (The Solstice Award — offered occasionally at the discretion of the SFWA board to people who’ve created a massive influence in the field — did go to a man, the late Terry Pratchett.) In some ways the winners, and the full nominating ballot they have been selected from, represent a regional, genre-particular eddy of adjust in the bigger ocean of literature.
“I think it is a solution of our time that excellent stories, diverse stories, are appearing and being celebrated,” says Sarah Pinsker, whose story “Our Lady of the Open Road” won greatest novelette.
2015 Nebula Award Winners
Ideal Novel: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Ideal Novella: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Ideal Novelette: “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker
Ideal Quick Story: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
Andre Norton Award for Ideal Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy: Updraft by Fran Wilde
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation: Mad Max: Fury Road Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Solstice Award: Terry Pratchett
The Nebulas are nominated by and voted on by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), an organization created up of functioning writers, editors, and other publishing professionals. They’re offered out in the course of the group’s annual conference, which is committed to celebrating, educating, and supporting genre writers.
This year’s celebration began with the presentation of the SFWA Grand Master award to C. J. Cherryh, honoring her lifetime contributions to the science fiction and fantasy field. Then, in category following category, authors like Alyssa Wong, Nnedi Okorafor, and Naomi Novik took home glittering nebulae and planet replicas encased in clear Lucite.
To some observers, this may possibly signal a dramatic shift in the science fiction and fantasy genres, which are typically perceived as getting a (white) boys’ club that is only lately begun to diversify. But that’s not the whole image, as the Nebulas themselves prove. This is not the initial time females have swept the awards you have to go back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, the really beginning of the Nebulas, to discover a group of years dominated by guys — and even then the list of nominees incorporated girls and 1 of the males consistently winning was African-American author Samuel R Delany.
This weekend’s winners reflect a lot of various kinds of diversity beyond gender. Half are women of colour, half are self-identified queer females – which mirrors the overall diversity of the ballot. 24 out of the 34 works nominated for the award had been written by girls from numerous racial and cultural backgrounds and a spectrum of sexual orientations. Of the ten operates by guys, five of them were written by folks of colour and queer authors.
“The Nebula ballot is every thing a ballot need to be in this community,” mentioned Brooke Bolander, author of the nominated story “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead.” “It is diverse, it’s wide-ranging, and it contains remarkable stories by incredible authors.”
That’s an crucial point, provided the ongoing conversation about diversity taking place now in speculative fiction circles. The Hugos — the other key awards in the genre — are nominated by fans. Final year and once again this year, Hugo nominations have been affected by the Sad and Rabid Puppies groups, who campaign against what they see as affirmative action-primarily based nominating and voting in the Hugo and Nebula awards.
But “individuals want these stories,” says Alyssa Wong. She was the 1st Filipino author to be nominated for the Nebula award final year and is now the very first to win it for her 2015 short story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Even though she says she’s seen some Puppy-style criticism of her success, most of the reaction has been positive.
Readers “want to study stories from the points of view of folks who have been historically been locked out of the genre,” Wong says. “‘Hungry Daughters’ is about a group of ladies who are all Asian-American and all from very different backgrounds, all of whom really feel isolated in some way … But clearly this is not just Asian-American audiences who this is resonating with. I’m appreciative that individuals are reading much more extensively now. It implies much more opportunities — not just to be published, but to be seen.”
Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author, media critic, podcaster, vlogger, and issuer of the Tempest Challenge.