Earlier this month I made a vow that seemed unwise. 2013 is my first year as a member of SFWA and therefore the first year I can cast a ballot for the Nebula Awards. The Nebula Awards! Frank Herbert's Dune won the Nebula. My favorite writer, Ursula K. LeGuin, won six. Isaac Asimov won. Arthur C. Clarke. Samuel Delany. Connie Willis. The Nebulas are the real deal, the Holy Grail of science-fiction and fantasy*. I simply couldn't wait to vote.
There was one problem: I'm a stickler when it comes to voting. I've long believed that if you're going to vote in an election, you must research all the candidates. It's only fair. In my mind, voting for a book without having read all the other nominees would be an ethical breach. Not a “trip an old lady crossing the street” breach, but a breach nonetheless.
I knew I wouldn't have time to read every novel, novella, novelette, and short story on the Nebula shortlist by March 30th, but as a writer of young adult fiction I felt it was my duty to at least cast a ballot for the Andre Norton Award. This year 12 books were nominated for the Norton, and I've been so remiss in keeping up with my YA/MG reading over the past year that, as of March 1st, I had read exactly zero of them.
Thus, the vow. I would read all 12 books in four weeks—or, more accurately, 14 books in four weeks. Holly Black's Black Heart is the third in a trilogy I had not read. Of course I would have to read the first two in the series.
I was told such a goal was unreasonable. In fact, I accomplished it in 16 days. You might ask, “Shana, how did you manage to read 14 books in 16 days when you have a job, book promotion and writing duties, and a small but non-negligible social life?” The secret, my friends? Insomnia. It's great! Here's how you do it: You lie in bed and simply don't fall asleep until 5 or 6 in the morning (if at all). If you can get a panic attack going at around 4 or 4:30, all the better. It'll give you more energy for reading**.
Sixteen days later, I've read all the books and feel confident about my pick for the Norton. It makes me sad, though. Fourteen fine books, yet only one can take home the prize. I thought, “Why must there be only one? There should be more winners! More awards!”
So I made some up***.
*I guess the Hugos are okay, too.
**Warning: Side effects may include headaches, walking into doors, and generalized jerkitude.
***Second warning: The following awards are very, very silly. Read at your own discretion. There are no major spoilers below, so don't worry if you haven't read all twelve books yet.
THE 2012 SHMEBULA AWARDS
Book That Would Make The Best Video Game
Above World (J-RPG)
Every Day (Dating Sim)
Railsea (Train Sim)
Seraphina (Rhythm Game)(Harpsichord Hero? Flute Flute Revolution?)
Summer of the Mariposas (Adventure Game)
Above World. It is so much an RPG. You've got a cast of characters, each of whom has a specific role and fighting style, and their races give them stat bonuses. Throughout the story the characters upgrade their weapons and learn new skills. It's got HydroTek, like Final Fantasy VI's Magitek, there are Domes like in Chrono Trigger, and there's a cute animal mascot. If Above World were an RPG, I would play it SO HARD. You hear that, Ubisoft? Get on this.
The Abed Nazir Award for Best Metaliterary Conceit
Jena the Speculative Fiction Fan (Fair Coin)
Matthew the Teller (Above)
Raven Myths (Vessel)
The Narrator (Railsea)
Above. I always love the “sewer people invent their own weirdo mythology about the above-worlders” trope, and I think it was handled particularly well here. Sometimes writers use metaliterary devices to get across a simple theme like, “Stories are good!” or “Stories are bad!” but Above did a fine job of navigating between them to give us a more nuanced view.
The GOB Bluth “It's an Allusion, Michael” Award
La Llorona (Summer of the Mariposas)
Moby Dick (Railsea)
Running Up That Hill (Every Day)
The Odyssey (Summer of the Mariposas)
The Frog Prince, Sleeping Beauty, and every other fairytale ever (Enchanted)
We have a tie! First up, Railsea, a cleverly constructed world where people are so busy chasing after symbols they fail to realize there's a whole world out there waiting to be explored. (Not that I identify with such silly characters. Oh no no no.) We also have La Llorona, who in Summer of the Mariposas acts as two-two-two allusions in one! The book both references the folktale and the tale-behind-the-tale of Malinche and Hernán Cortés, which fits in well with the book's theme of syncretism.
A's Body Switching (Every Day)
Curse Working (Black Heart)
Seraphina's Garden/Cognitive Architecture (Seraphina)
Sunday's Magic (Enchanted)
The Coin (Fair Coin)
Every Day. Body switching can be (and usually is) the stuff of farce. Here, though, it's used in a quieter, more poetic way. Levithan thought of pretty much every dramatic situation body switching could result in (A's blind! A's a depressive! A's a drug addict!) and how such a lifestyle would realistically affect a person's psychological development.
TOMORROW: More Shmebula Award silliness. We'll look at the best protagonists, villains, sidekicks, and (omg!) boys from the Norton shortlist.