Too Early 2015 Nebula Prediction, Version 1.0

Here’s my far far too early take on the 2015 Nebula Award, to join my equally Too Early 2015 Hugo Prediction.

Of the Hugos and Nebulas, the Nebula slate is harder to predict. The Nebula is given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, with the rules explained here. Long story short: the some 1500+ members of the SFWA are eligible to nominate works for the Nebula award.

That’s a small group, and the group making nominations is even smaller. This makes the final slate very unpredictable: every year, there are several wild-card nominees that are total surprises. Just this last year, we had nominations of Charles Gannon’s Fire with Fire and Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light, both of which would have been near impossible to predict. Unlike the Hugo committee, the Nebula committee does not release statistics to the public, so we don’t know how many nominations it takes to get on the slate. I imagine it’s a very small number. As such, any predictions about the bottom half of the slate are almost 100% certain to be wrong.

That said, here’s a rough prediction. Remember, these are what books are likely to be nominated, not what should be nominated:

Good Bets:
1. Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword
2. Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation
3. Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire
4. David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks
5. Jack McDevitt, Coming Home
6. Some novel I’ve never heard of
7. Mary Robinette Kowal, Valour and Vanity
8. Andy Weir, The Martian
9. Jo Walton, My Real Children

I could also see some literary SFF books creeping in: The Bees by Laline Paull, Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux, On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae Lee, or Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes. If the Nebulas want to be truly inclusive, The Three Body Problem by Chinese SF star Cixin Liu might have a shot.

I’ve tried to build these nominations off who has been nominated recently, and the kind of push the books have gotten in the press and blogging community. The top 5 books from my list are all by previously nominated Nebula authors:

Leckie won last years Nebula and Hugo, and is as good a bet as any to return.

VanderMeer received a Nebula nomination for Finch in 2010, and his Southern Reach trilogy, all published this year, has been one the best-reviewed and best-marketed series of his career. Authority even hit the NYT bestseller list. This kind of ambitious series, coupled with the unusual decision to publish three volumes in one year, should attract Nebula voters. My only concerns it that voters won’t know what to vote for: individual books in the series or the series as a whole. I’m putting down the first book—a creepy and disturbing journey into a mysterious Area X—as the most likely to get a nom.

Hurley picked up a Nebula nomination for God’s War in 2012, and this is the start of an ambitious new fantasy series. There’s not a lot of epic fantasy amongst the potential nominees, so Hurley has a good shot of attracting that element of the SFF community.

Mitchell is a hard one. Cloud Atlas got a nomination way back in 2005, and Mitchell’s stature has risen since then. He is, however, a more experimental writer, and The Bone Clocks certainly seems more post-modern than speculative. If a small group of voters really like Mitchell’s book—a strong possibility: you either tend to love or hate this kind of book—they could push him to a nom.

McDevitt: you can never count him out of the Nebula. He has been nominated 8 out of the last 10 years for this award. While he missed out last year, will he return? I’m not sure I understand why McDevitt keeps getting nominated, but you can’t argue against that track record. He must have a core group of very dedicated fans in the SFWA.

Kowal is an intriguing choice. She scored nominations for her 2011 and 2013 for books from her Glamourist history series, in a “Jane Austen meets magic” kind of way. The latest novel in this series, Valour and Vanity, seems to vary up that formula by adding a heist into the regency mix; it’s received some of the best reviews of this series since Shades of Milk and Honey. Has the series run it’s Nebula course, or we will see a return to the slate?

Weir is beginning to trouble me, largely because of the complicated question of his eligibility. I’d have him higher if that status wasn’t so murky. The Martian was indie-published first—it seems somewhat odd that you can’t join the SFWA on the basis of indie-publishing, but that they might exclude a novel from Nebula consideration because of that. Until we get a ruling on eligibility from or the Nebulas, The Martian is going to have to float at the fringes of a potential slate.

Walton won the Nebula two years ago, and I’d have My Real Children higher if it was more speculative. Still, Walton is well-liked, the book is well-reviewd. I should probably have this higher.

A lot of the more commercial novelists who do well in the Hugo noms—authors like Scalzi or Stross, for instance—tend not to show up on the Nebula slates. I’ve largely excluded those books from consideration, but if anyone has a strong reason why one of those should be included, let me know.

Other suggestions? Thoughts? Who else have I missed?


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