March 1, 2007

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Nebula Awards Showcase 2007, edited by Mike Resnick (Roc, 2007)
By John "jaQ" Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com

I think I’ve figured out why science fiction isn’t considered “real” literature by snobs of the written word. Even when a science fiction story rises above its genre and works in its own right, it almost by necessity must be devoid of metaphor.

Take “I Live With You” by Carol Emshwiller, the second story in this collection of Nebula winners and nominees. The narrator says she’s invisible. In any other genre, that would be a metaphor, a suggestion that no one notices her or pays her any mind. In this story, it’s considerably less clear; she might actually be, literally, invisible. The non-metaphor in Dale Bailey’s “The End of the World as We Know It” should be obvious by the title. And in Anne Harris’s “Still Life with Boobs,” her breasts do in fact detach from her body and wander around on their own.

Good stories all, no doubt. But you can either suspend your disbelief and revel in the worlds they create or step back and see metaphor only when you apply what they have to say in the real world, where people are not literally invisible, where everyone but you has not suddenly died and where your body parts do not have sexual escapades without you.

The nice thing about this book is that it does not confine itself to space opera, time travel or any other sub-genre of science fiction. Instead, the real literature that can come from speculative fiction is collected, and it’s well worth the read.

Resnick had a good deal of the work done for him, since all of the selections were at least nominated for a prestigious award, so I won’t credit him. The essays and articles that accompany the stories are rather blandly self-important, harping on science fiction’s importance to the world and how terrible it is that short story magazines dedicated to the genre are so few. The fact is, the kind of sci-fi (yeah, I called it that; suck it, nerds) in this book appears in all kinds of publications, from The New Yorker to Reader’s Digest. That’s better for science fiction than being relegated to pulp mags with spaceships on the cover. B+