The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) recently announced the finalists for the Nebula Awards. The finalists are for works published during 2019. The winners will be named at the 55th Annual SFWA conference at a ceremony on May 30.
And the finalists are—I think—spot on. Last year we picked quite a few of these Nebula finalists as best science fiction and fantasy books of the month and even best science fiction and fantasy books of the year. This is a very strong list of finalists, indeed, which will make choosing the award winners both easy and difficult.
We’ve listed the 12 nominees for best novel and best novella. The full list can be found at https://nebulas.sfwa.org/2019-nebula-award-finalists-announced/.
Best novel finalists
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
When the all-powerful and undead ruler of the galaxy asks the nine Houses to send their best necromancers and cavaliers to compete to become his newest advisor, Harrow coerces sword-swinger Gideon to join her in Harrow’s grab for power. Too bad they hate each other, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. A mix of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and a rousingly unpredictable D&D campaign, Gideon the Ninth was also named the Amazon Books editors’ favorite SF and fantasy book of 2019—and I'm already giddy about Tamsyn Muir's sequel, Harrow the Ninth.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Alex E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January includes book ingredients we’ve seen many times before: a girl discovering her true identity, a faithful animal companion, a missing parent, a Very Evil Person, and a book of power. But Harrow takes this basic recipe for a coming-of-age adventure and bakes in an emotional and heroic resonance that makes this undertaking a mighty reminder that heroism, done properly, should be dangerous indeed.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Trust in Silvia Moreno-Garcia to deliver a unique, thoughtful, and thrilling new take on the fantastical. Casiopea was named for the stars, but her life is extremely earthbound as she spends her days as her bad-tempered grandfather’s servant. One day, in a fit of rebellion, she opens a forbidden chest in her grandfather’s room, unleashing the Mayan god of death. Those who want to expand beyond the usual sword-and-sorcery fare will find Gods of Jade and Shadow to be a delight.
A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker
With terrorism and rampant viruses causing mass events to be shut down, musicians have to move their concerts to a virtual reality location called Hoodspace. While some, like Rosemary, operate easily in Hoodspace, the adjustment is harder for those like Luce, a musician who wants to keep IRL as real as possible. A thoughtful and perhaps prescient examination of creativity in an only-online world.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Mahit Dzmare is sent to the capital city of the massive Teixcalaani empire to represent 30,000 souls living in an independent mining station. Riding along in Mahit's brain are the memories of the former ambassador, though the memories, suspiciously, are ten years out of date. Mahit’s gritty spywork, diplomatic sleight-of-hand, and heightened awareness of the power of the empire’s embrace made A Memory Called Empire one of the Amazon Books editors’ favorites of 2019.
Marque of Caine by Charles E. Gannon
Gannon nabs his fourth Nebula nomination with his fifth book in his Caine Riordan series—and all four nominations have been for this series, which tells you something. A diplomat between alien races, Caine has to always be aware that diplomacy is sometimes a cover for more aggressive pursuits. When he goes to visit the ancient Dornaani, he discovers that Earth might have a new enemy to worry about.
Best novella finalists
“Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom” from Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
”Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom” is one of nine excellent stories in the latest collection by Chiang, who is perhaps best known as the author of Stories of Your Life and Others, which inspired the SF movie Arrival. With these stories that range from alternate reality to time jumps, Chiang goes deep into the emotional world of people who are suddenly in situations that force them to rethink their assumptions.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes
River Solomon’s novella launches off the idea that merpeople were descended from pregnant women cast into the sea from slave ships, and then it spins out a heart-snatching story about the weight and redemption of memory. Only one person holds the memories of her people, and those memories are passed down from generation to generation via one memory-holder called the historian. But when Yetu, the current historian, flees an annual ritual, leaving the rest of her people with the memories in their heads instead, storms begin to spin and the sea begins to swell. A powerful, resonant, and quickly devoured story.
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Agents Red and Blue fight for different sides in a war that spins up and down the threads of time. A snip here, a weaving there. When Blue leaves a letter for Red at their latest battlefield, a playful correspondence turns into something far bigger. But neither can be sure that the other agent isn’t playing a very long game of subversion and double-cross. Emotionally riveting (and sometimes ravaging), El-Mohtar and Gladstone’s slim tale of love and loyalty despite time and place packs a wallop more potent than that of books three times its size.
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
After 2018’s The Black God's Drums, this novella is Clark’s second to be nominated for a Nebula Award. Set in an alternate 1912 Cairo, a possessed tram car usually isn’t a big deal for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities—or so they think. As two agents from the ministry investigate the possession, they uncover a greater danger than they ever anticipated.
Catfish Lullaby by A.C. Wise
The legend of Catfish John has haunted the town of Lewis for generations in this unsettling Southern gothic. But how much is real and how much is folk tales is something that Caleb Royce discovers after he takes over his father’s job as sheriff.
Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan
I missed reading this novella when it came out in May 2019, but I need to put it on the top of my (digital) TBR pile. Per the publisher’s description: “All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth.” I’m downloading this novella…now.
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