I’ve been reading these NEBULA AWARD volumes for…54 years. Yes, I started at the beginning and kept track of the best of SF for decades. However, I would have to say that Nebula Awards Showcase #54 is one of the oddest anthologies in the series. The oddity comes from a big chunk of the book being “EXCERPTS” from Nebula nominees for the Novel Category. I’ve read the entire ARTIFICIAL CONDITION: THE MURDERBOT DIARIES by Martha Wells. Loved it! But you only get a small sample here. The same for the excerpt for “The Tea Master and the Detective” by Aliette de  Bodard. Loved it! But a little sample isn’t as satisfying as reading the entire novel like I did.

My favorite story in this collection is “The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinsker  where a magician makes a Faustian bargain with dire consequences.

I was disappointed by Nebula Awards Showcase #54 but maybe you’ll like it better than I did. GRADE: B-


  • Introduction by Nibedita Sen — vii
  • “It’s Dangerous to Go Alone” by Kate Dollarhyde  — 1
  • “Into the Spider-verse: A Classic Origin Story in Bold New Color” by Brandon O’Brien  — 5
  • “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark*  –9
  • “Interview for the End of the World” by Rhett C. Bruno — 21
  • “And Yet” by A. T. Greenblatt — 45
  • “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of  Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow — 63
  • “The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinsker — 81
  • “The Only Harmless Great Thing” by Brooke Bolander* — 91
  • “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly — 149
  • “An Agent of Utopia” by Andy Duncan — 175
  • “The Substance of My Lives, The Accidents of Our Births” by José Pablo Iriarte — 211
  • “The Rule of Three” by Lawrence M. Schoen — 237
  • “Messenger” by R.R. Virdi & Yudhanjaya Wijeratne — 287
  • Excerpt: “The Tea Master and the Detective” by Aliette de  Bodard* — 313
  • Excerpt: “Fire Ant” by Jonathan P. Brazee — 331
  • Excerpt: “The Black God’s Drums” by P. Djèlí Clark — 353
  • Excerpt: “Alice Payne Arrives” by Kate Heartfield — 377
  • Excerpt: “Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach” by Kelly Robson — 401
  • Excerpt: “Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries” by  Martha Wells — 429
  • Excerpt: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal* — 447
  • Biographies — 457
  • About the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America — 467
  • About the Nebula Awards — 469

22 thoughts on “WEDNESDAY’S SHORT STORIES #19: NEBULA AWARDS SHOWCASE #54 Edited by Nibedita Sen

  1. Jeff Meyerson

    That is just odd. I do not like using excerpts from novels rather than actual short stories, which have a tough enough time getting attention as it is. Besides the Murderbot, I’ve read THE CALCULATING STARS by Mary Robinette Kowal. Loved the original novella, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” the best, but also really liked this one and the sequel.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I can only surmise that NEBULA AWARD SHOWCASE #54 is more of a marketing device than an anthology. Like you, I don’t like excerpts from complete works. I want the whole thing…or nothing!

    1. george Post author

      Steve, like you I’m averse to excerpts. But, I suppose if these excerpts generate sales for their authors, the marketing strategy works.

  2. Michael Padgett

    Not only have I not read a single thing in this collection, I’ve never even heard of any of the writers. Guess my SF reading days are really over. But I agree on excerpts. Even mainstream magazines like THE NEW YORKER are guilty of using the things. I don’t read NEW YORKER fiction as regularly as I used to, but if a story looks interesting or is by a writer I like I’ll at least give it a try unless I can tell it’s an excerpt.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, I only recognized a few of the writers in NEBULA AWARDS SHOWCASE #54. I’m way behind on contemporary SF writers, too.

  3. Jeff Smith

    I don’t like them either, but when I was editing the Tiptree Award anthologies, the publisher wanted excerpts of the winning novels. I worked hard on making them as interesting as I could. I rarely just used the beginning of the book — though once the first chapter had been published as a separate short story, so that was the obvious choice. Sometimes I skipped around, following a particular thread from several different chapters. No idea if anyone else cared at all, but it made me feel better about having to do it.

  4. tracybham

    54 years! You must have been very young when you started. I looked back at some of the earlier anthologies available on Amazon and some included novellas and novelettes. I think I would enjoy sampling those.

    1. george Post author

      tracy, I’m 71 years old and I started reading and collecting at an early age. I used to read all the stories nominated for the HUGO AWARD and then when the NEBULA AWARD anthologies started to be published I read them, too. Now, I’m far behind on both. But early and mid-NEBULA AWARD anthologies are available and mostly inexpensive on-line. You would enjoy them!

  5. Cap'n Bob Napier

    What, are only females writing s-f anymore? If you dislike excerpts so much, your grade was too high!

  6. Rick Robinson

    I recognize 4 of the authors. I do not like anthologies like this with excerpts, though occasionally that will lead me to trying an author.

    @ Bob: it’s the age of women and persons of color. Whitey is OUT.

  7. Todd Mason

    Well, the NEBULA AWARDS volumes are meant to make money for SFWA, much as the MWA anthologies were meant to do for the MWA…seven novel excerpts and only twelve items from all the other narrative/print categories is lopsided to say the least, but at least earlier Nebula volumes kept the excerpts down to a few pages each. 104 pages of them is a bit much.

    All sympathies to Jeff Smith. And there is no lack of white male writers on the TOC.

  8. Todd Mason

    I first read one, Kate Wilhelm’s, in 1976, I think and Gordon Dickson’s in 1978, (I mistyp3ed 1078 at first, but that would have to be one of Poul Andersons’s space-bound Vikings editing).

      1. Todd Mason

        She never gave up SF…though she wrote mostly horror and borderline horror at novel length in later years (such as THE GOOD CHILDREN and CAMBIO BAY) when not writing crime fiction (though of course her first Barbara Holloway novel, DEATH QUALIFIED, was a mix of cf and sf and borderline horror). She had a novella in the Wilhelm issue of F&SF, for example.

        I think she Tuckerized me in her suspense novel THE PRICE OF SILENCE. I never got around to asking her.

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