5 Things to Watch for in the Nebula Nominations

The Nebula nominating period closed on February 15, 2015, and the SFWA will announce their full Nebula slate sometime soon (within a week or so?). Here are some of the trends I’m keeping a close eye on:

1. How repetitive will the slate be? Both the Hugos and the Nebulas tend to repeat the same authors over and over again. See my extensive Report on this issue. While Leckie and VanderMeer have previously grabbed Best Novel nominations, and are likely to do so again, 2015 might yield an interesting crop of Nebula rookies. Of the 5 most popular recent Nebula Best Novel authors (McDevitt, Bujold, Hopkinson, Jemisin, and Mieville), only McDevitt has a novel out this year. Add in that heavy-hitters like Willis and Gaiman didn’t publish novels in 2015, and it seems like the field is more open than usual.

2. How literary will the slate be? 2014 was a strong year for literary SFF, with major novels from authors like Emily St. John Mandel, David Mitchell, Chang-rae Lee, and many others. The Nebula has been friendly to such texts in the past. How many will make this year’s slate? 1? 2? If 3 literary novels make the slate, will the internet explode?

3. Will the Nebulas nominate self-published and indie-published works? Last year, Nagata made the Nebula slate with a self-published novel. Will this trend continue? More and more authors are bypassing traditional publishing and taking their novels directly to the reading audience. The SFWA has recently changed their rules to allow self-published authors into the SFWA. Are we going to see a sea-change of more self-published novels and stories make future Nebula slates? Does it start this year?

4. What about the paywall issue? This is a problem fast reaching a critical point for the Hugos and the Nebulas. Do short stories, novelettes, and novellas that are locked behind paywalls—either in print journals or in online journals/ebooks that require a subscription fee—still stand a chance? Or does the open access provided by sites like Clarkesworld, Tor.com, or Strange Horizons get those stories in front of a larger audience, thus making them more likely award nominees?

5. Will the Nebulas go international? The Nebulas and the Hugos are, in theory, international awards. For the Nebulas, any book published in the USA is eligible, no matter the country of origin or original language. In practice, both awards go to either American or British writers, with a few Canadians thrown in here and there for good measure. Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem brought Chinese SF to an American audience this year, and we’re seeing an increasing number of novels and short stories published in translation. Will this have any impact? I doubt it, but we’ll see.

I’m sure plenty of other issues—and controversies—will float to the surface over the next month. Demographics is a likely point of major discussion, as are the genre questions that always pop up this time of year. What other issues are you thinking about in regard to the forthcoming Nebula slate?

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