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“If you’re late to the party, the Nebula Awards are chosen every year by the members of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) […] By writers, for writers. As such, the nominators and voters tend to have a slightly different outlook on the work that comes up for the Nebulas than the average reader.

Those who nominate and vote want something more. Something different. […] It probably won’t be what the ‘average reader’ would like.”

With these words, acclaimed author Mercedes Lackey introduces Nebula Awards Showcase 2016. There is a certain irony to declaiming popular taste and then releasing a collection for popular consumption. Certainly, the sentiment “If you don’t like these stories it’s not us, it’s you” reeks of elitism, or defensiveness. Fortunately, there is a lot to love about Nebula Awards Showcase 2016, even for the “average reader.”

The showcase collects all short story nominees and winner from the 2014 ballot, all novelette nominees and winner, excerpts from the novella nominees, the full text of the novella winner, and an excerpt from Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, which won for the novel category. The short stories are each beautiful gems, polished to perfection. The novelettes are all entertaining and unique, though some are not as successful as others – perhaps suffering from a lack of brevity. The novella excerpts are a little awkward, like textual book trailers stuck showing only one scene. Some give tastes of the skill that won their nomination, while others do not dazzle with such a limited glimpse. The novella winner, Yesterday’s Kin, is spectacularly wonderful though, and will leave the reader wanting more. The excerpt from Annihilation does not reveal much and, because of this, promises inscrutable mysteries and tense, psychological thrills in a surreal landscape.

Perhaps Mercedes Lackey meant in her introduction that the stories the Nebula collects are not driven by action and explosions; but any well-loved story earns its fans by its characters, not its plot points, and each story in the awards showcase has immersive characters for the reader to climb inside and abide in for awhile. So go out and buy a copy – it’ll be well worth your time, and you may discover your next favorite author.

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