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NEBULA AWARDS 21: SFWA's CHOICES FOR THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY OF 1985, edited by George Zebrowski (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $19.95; 288 pp.).

February 01, 1987|John G. Cramer

The Nebula Awards are presented annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America for the best SF/fantasy in four length categories (novel, novella, novelette and short story). Short fiction, almost vanished from mainstream literature, is alive and well in SF/fantasy genre where monthly half a dozen magazines publish short fiction in quantity. The annual Nebula Awards anthology collects the prize-winning stories in the three short categories, along with some of the nominee stories.

In the present anthology, Nancy Kress' rather mainstream prize short story, "Out of All Them Bright Stars," relates the experience of a diner waitress when her establishment is unexpectedly visited by an extraterrestrial "guest" of the federal authorities. George R. R. Martin's prize novelette, "Portraits of His Children," a very writerly tale, concerns an author visited, Scrooge-fashion, by characters from his books. Robert Silverberg's prize novella, "Sailing to Byzantium," describes far-future human inhabitants of Earth who have become perpetual tourists in a constantly changing panorama of five cities reconstructed from historical records by robots. There are also excellent nominee stories by Joe Haldeman, Orson Scott Card (author of the Nebula-winning novel "Ender's Game"), James P. Blaylock and Howard Waldrop. Rounding out the anthology are a penetrating 1985 SF retrospective by Algis Budrys, humor by SFWA Grand Master Arthur C. Clarke, SF poetry competition winners, an interesting critical analysis of aliens by Gregory Benford and a 40-page comprehensive discussion of 1985 science-fiction films.

If I have any problem with this first-rate anthology, it is the inappropriateness of the latter piece. Nebulas are, for excellent reasons, not awarded for film. It is regrettable that the editor chose to devote 14% of the anthology to a survey of films, which, in many cases, deserve obscurity. He might better have included some of the excellent Nebula nominees missing from this volume.

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