The Nebulas have been announced, and I haven’t read a single one

I am a terrible person, but in my defense, this has been a rough and stressful academic year, and I haven’t been keeping up. That’ll change this summer, though, so give me a chance. I’m putting all of these on my Amazon wishlist.

  • Best Novel: All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders. I’ve heard many raves about this one.

  • Best Novella: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. Just bought it. Figured this ought to be high on my list, since McGuire will be at Convergence in July, and there’s a tiny chance I might have to stammer out a few words in a conversation with her. Also, I’ve read most everything she’s written, so why stop now?

  • Best Novelette: The Long Fall Up, by William Ledbetter. Who? I don’t know this person at all, so I guess I get to discover a new author. And hey, that issue of F&SF is free on Kindle Unlimited!

  • Best Short Story: “Seasons of Glass and Iron” in , The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, by Amal El-Mohtar. Oh, I did meet her, very briefly, at NerdCon. She was nice, and her stories are lovely. I’ll have to read this one, too.

  • The Bradbury award went to Arrival. I’ve seen that!

  • The Norton Award for Young Adult fiction went toArabella of Mars by David Levine, another one I don’t know…but YA stuff is remarkably fresh and good and often more challenging than the “adult” stuff. What’s categorized as adult is too often the conventional crap with military hardware and sexy times and surprisingly frequent violence.

So that’s my next week of light reading sorted.

One question: why novel, novella, and novelette? Isn’t it rather arbitrary to set up categories defined by the length of the work? We don’t have categories for Best Picture Over 3 Hours Long vs. Best Picture Less Than 2 Hours Long, or Best Actor Over or Under 6 Feet Tall. Is this a vestige of a genre that was accustomed to its authors getting paid by word count?


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    *raises hand* re ATBITS
    (love that acronym for All The Birds In The Sky :-) )
    truly is a masterpiece. Check it out.
    Not only my opinion, seems to garner every award for which it was nominated.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    actually, I think there are Academy Awards for Best Short Film, and Best Film.
    Similar could be asked about Actor vs Actress, why not “Best Actper” (to make it genderless).
    There is no “Best Female Director”, why are actors categorized by sex? hmmm?

    back to original question, I too never understood the difference between “novelette” and “novella”. “short story” vs. “novel”, is more reasonable. IMO

  3. says

    I feel with you. I hate grading. By now I’m grateful (gradingful?) for the lazy people who don’t do their stuff.

    Figured this ought to be high on my list, since McGuire will be at Convergence in July, and there’s a tiny chance I might have to stammer out a few words in a conversation with her.

    If you do so tell her there’s many people who simply love her stuff. I do. One of the few authors I preorder.

  4. says

    One thing about length is it changes how you read it, sort of. Whether a movie is 1 hour or 6 hours, you’ll probably sit down and watch it all at once. Of course a short story you’re liable to read all at once and a novel you might read spread out over a week or two. I assume a novelette might be a couple sessions, maybe even one, while a novella might be several days.

    I don’t know why this would necessitate different awards, though. Maybe it should be based on how long it took to write it, like how we have different distances for running competitions in the Olympics.

  5. Mobius says

    I’ve put myself on the waiting list for Charlie Jane Anders’ book with my state’s virtual library. Love my Kindle.

  6. says

    There ARE Oscars based on length. Indeed there use to be a middle category.

    Anyway the different awards for length make sense because generally speaking a short story will have one major reversal of fortune whereas a novel will have 3 or more.

    Same reason why poetry is usually awarded different from story or why documentaries are separated from dramatized works. The comparison of better is pretty meaningless accross forms.

  7. says

    I think it’s rather a different craft to produce a short story, a short novel, and a cube of paper novel. Different length of arc for character development, number of characters, complexity of plot, variety of settings, and so forth, calls for different kinds of chops and produces a very different kind of reading experience. Makes sense to me.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    … why novel, novella, and novelette?

    Arguably an outdated tradition – but a beneficial one that provides more opportunity to recognize talent without inflating the award value.

    It feels so nice to read about SF awards without any mention of puppy abuse!

  9. Snarki, child of Loki says

    “why novel, novella, and novelette?”

    I suggest they all be merged into the category “noveloid”.

  10. JoeBuddha says

    I should really go back to mainstream sci-fi. I’ve been stuck in modern space opera lately (Kurtherian Gambit, Federal Witch, etc.). I used to be such a hard sci-fi geek, too. My mother has literally walls of it.

  11. woozy says

    Length can put constraints on the breadth and depth of a work so short story/novel/novella make perfect sense to me (but I have no idea what a novlette is) as does a short/film feature distinction which exists. I think epic film would be a fine category although the exact distinction would have to be either arbitrary (over three hours. period.) or meaningless (a la “The Martian” in best comedy or musical– or Timothy Hutton’s nomination for best supporting actor in “Ordinary People”– man, dating myself….).

  12. Becca Stareyes says

    PZ, given how much Seanan gushes about weird biology on Twitter, I suspect you can find conversational topics pretty easily.

    Woozy, it’s all done by word count. Novelettes have between 7,500 to 17,500 words. Novellas have between 17,500 and 40,000 words. Thankfully, these are the same definitions as the Hugo uses. Outside of microfiction, I usually have to run a word count when nominating for novelette versus short story in the Hugos. So, yeah, I suspect the reason is that SF has a long tradition of short fiction, and this means more awards.

    (The Nebulas don’t split their Dramatic Presentation category, but the Hugos do at 90 minutes, IIRC.)

  13. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Becca Stareyes is right @ 14–but the reason why science fiction in particular has these fine-grained categories dates back to the bad old days when it was a really despised genre and it was almost impossible to get novel-length science fiction published.

    By the time the Hugos started, a very few of Campbell’s stable (Heinlein, Asimov, De Camp, etc.) could get published in novel length, but the awards would have been kind of boring if every “novel” published that year had to be nominated just to fill up the roster, so they created these shorter lengths. The novelette appeared in a single issue of a magazine, the novella was probably spread over two, and a novel would be serialized over three or more.

  14. methuseus says

    I have not been keeping up with sci-fi, or reading in general, at all. I have one question/observation: since, in the past, the genre has been overrun by male voices, is there a specific reason there are so many women? Or is it that they are the best? I’m guessing it’s just that they’re the best for the past year, which means they’re finally being recognized. Which is good; I was raised mainly on Anne McCaffrey and Robert Heinlein, preferring the former in most cases, though encouraged more to be interested in the latter by clueless men.

  15. Owlmirror says

    If anyone wants free samples (excerpts from the novels & novellas, some entire works of the novelettes and short stories), the overlap of Hugo award nominees with Nebula nominees/winners means that this will link to some of the good stuff:

    Where to Find the 2017 Hugo Finalists For Free Online

    (note that Puppy-related shenanigans means that there are a few ringers in there — VD as a finalist for best editor; a few works from Castalia house, etc. But the voting changes recently implemented means that Puppies have less influence on the finalists than they used to)

  16. Knabb says

    In terms of short story, novella, and novel (plus novelette) being distinct, there is a point of comparison for film. Shorts, Movies, and TV Shows (plus mini series) occupy a similar framework, split by length.

  17. vole says

    @16 Not so “finally”! It was in the late seventies that Theodore Sturgeon made a famous remark about “all the best newer writers (with the exception of James Tiptree Jr.)” being women – whereupon Mr Tiptree announced that her real name was in fact Alice B Sheldon. I don’t keep up with modern SF either, but perhaps little has changed since then.

  18. madtom1999 says

    #6 how about novels that are several hundred pages long and cannot be put down until finished. I’ve spent ten minutes ‘reading a chapter’ of a few authors novels at 10 at night only to discover that I have to go to work when I’ve finished the er… chapter.

  19. says

    Owlmirror @17: The rules changes you refer to affect the Hugo nominations, not the Hugo voting. Before the doleful pre-adolescent canines made themselves (tiresomely) known, nominations were simply counted in a “first past the post” protocol; now, nominations are counted by a more-complex protocol, E Pluribus Hugo, which is akin to instant runoff voting. Pretty much everybody always recognized that “first past the post” nominations could be gamed by a bad actor with a relatively small number of disciplined nominators… but it wasn’t until the Pups that anyone was a big enough asshole to actually be that bad actor.

  20. says

    It’s the difference between a longform essay online, a blog post and a tweet. The form and skills involved in each case are distinct, though they may draw from the same underlying abilities.

  21. says


    Not to say the Oscars don’t play absurd games with lead/supporting but Hutton’s character is in fact supporting in Ordinary People. The movie, by definition, is not about him. It’s about his father, Cal, which is why the son is not involved in the climax.

    Ordinary People is about a man failing to reconcile the two people he cares about most in the face of death. It’s not about survivor’s guilt.

  22. says

    In the 1990s, the fraction of Nebula awards won by women writers was 48%, in the 2000s it was 55%, and so far in this decade (including the most recent set) it’s been 73%. It’s not some sudden recent trend.