Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Nebula Wards Showcase 2016

I didn't even think twice when I saw the Nebula Wards Showcase 2016 anthology, edited by Mercedes Lackey, on the shelf at my local bookshop – I bought it. And then I was pleased to see some familiar names – Eugie Foster, Aliette de Bodard, and Alyssa Wong. While I'm not going to go over every story or excerpt collected here, I will touch on the works that jumped out at me and why they resonated.

Aliette de Bodard's "The Breath of War" spoke to me as we meet Rechan, upon whose world expectant women need the support of their stoneman or -woman in order to give birth. This is a haunting tale infused with aspects of both fantasy and SF, and the mechanics of the sculpting of the sentient stone in this story reminds me a little of Robin Hobb's memory stone in the Farseer books. De Bodard examines the connections of family but also a deeper yearning of those who are never sure where their place is in existence, and being torn between the known and unknown.

Eugie Foster's "When it Ends, He Catches Her" is equally haunting, framed within a last dance between two lovers, and how memory endures, encapsulated within movement. The setting is desolate, and there is little hope here, but there is an intrinsic beauty that I've always associated with Foster's writing.

Alyssa Wong's "The Fisher Queen" is one of those scratchy-behind-the-eyes stories that stayed with me throughout as she takes the idea of mermaids and subverts it. What if an entire industry was based on *eating* mermaids? And what if they were put to *other* uses before brought to land. This is an uncomfortable read, and perhaps for that, I love it the best.

"Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon was just lovely, spun out with the lilting cadences of an American folk tale as we are plunged into a world where some folks are touched by a wilder magic, and what they make of it is entirely up to them. With the resultant unintended consequences.

Nancy Kress was the Nebula Award Winner for "Best Novella" and reading "Yesterday's Kin" in its entirety was a real treat. She examines the bonds of family within this tale of Marianne, a scientist, who believes that her paper on evolutionary genetics is nothing special – until first contact results in the aliens showing interest in her work. We segue also to her son Noah, and how different his experience with the aliens is. I won't give spoilers, but as far as first contact stories usually go, this one hit me with all the feels in the right places.

Overall, I'm seeing more of a tendency towards SF or magical realism in the stories selected. Not so much anything secondary world fantasy, which is a pity. But then I think this is a global trend at present. That being said, I still enjoyed this collection immensely, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to dip into the works that are currently considered to be the top of the SFF genre.

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