2008 Nebula Nominees: Novelettes

April 14, 2009 at 2:10 am | Posted in Short Stories | Leave a comment
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The novelette length is much more to my taste than short stories, so it’s no surprise that as with previous years I found a lot more to like here.  As before there are no spoilers in my comments.

The Ray-Gun: A Love Story by James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s) — As with so many stories these days it’s written in that slightly effected, beating you with the charm stick folksy narration.  But Gardner does a good job with it.  This stands or falls based on the character portrait it is painting, and that is done quite well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t buy the ending (to the main character’s story)…too out of nowhere, not enough (any?) evidence in the story up to that point.   But the main character was done well enough I can forgive that.

Dark Rooms by Lisa Goldstein (Asimov’s) — A very strangely structured story.  Although it’s basically a fictionalized biography of a real early filmmaker, the plot and dramatic arc concerns the underwritten narrator.  Since the point of the story is the focus on the filmmaker, I didn’t really care much about the narrator, which completely sabotaged any interest in the story itself.  The fantastic element that stamped it into genre felt unnecessary and even out of place in what was really a biography.

If Angels Fight by Richard Bowes (F&SF) — Unusual paranormal story, but even though this is novelette length and full of seemingly authentic details about life in upper class Massachusetts, the whole thing feels kind of insubstantial.  There’s really only one idea here, so it feels like a short story padded out to a longer length.

Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel (F&SF) — Jane Austen meets Frankenstein.  I’m not very familiar with either, but I enjoyed the story.  I’m not sure that in the end the story really says anything the original Frankenstein didn’t already, but it was engaging.

Kaleidoscope by K.D. Wentworth (F&SF) — I’m always accusing short fiction of being mere vignettes, and this is a great example of that.  The central idea here, perception of alternate universes, is pretty neat.  There isn’t much a plot, though, and the resolution is unconvincing and feels unearned.  The feel of the main part of the story is interesting enough to be worth it, but I wish this worked better as an actual story.

Baby Doll by Johanna Sinisalo [translated from Finnish by David Hackston] (The SFWA European Hall of Fame) — I suppose this is science fiction, but it’s a story that would be at home in a mainstream anthology and it feels like horror.  It’s basically an extended “kids these days” rant that ties in a very ugly anticipated youth culture from 2015 with a fairly standard school story.  While I think there’s a lot of disturbing trends in the way kids act and are marketed to I found the extrapolation to be a little overwrought.  Having this come via translation from Finland was helpful, since I didn’t know what of the slang and culture was invented and what is already current there.  (Note my link for this story is to an anthology that collected it…”Baby Doll” is the first story.)

I couldn’t find Mary Rosenblum’s “Night Wind” online, so I can’t speak for that one.  Of the ones I did read, “The Ray Gun: A Love Story” was my favorite despite the weakness of the ending.  “Baby Doll” and “Pride and Prometheus” were also quite good.

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