Nebulous Honors

The big news of the last week or so is that this years Nebula Award winners (with the exception of the Grandmaster Award) are all women. Naturally this should be taken as sincere recognition of an excellent field, the most impressive of whom just happened to be female, right?


Let’s hear from some of those who discussed the winners:

“Yes!. All the fiction winners are women. The white male patriarchy takes one right in the balls. “

Because women are naturally less violent and more nurturing, the obvious metaphor here is clearly one of… oh, wait? What? Presumably the non-violent nature of women takes second place to kicking the white male patriarchy where it hurts. Me thinks I scent a teensy amount of hypocrisy here.

Nah, impossible. These are the Feminist Hoo Haas of Glitter. They can’t be hypocrites. The glitter grants them instant righteousness or something. Anyway, having seen a picture of the trophy, it’s just not as convenient a shape for feminine satisfaction as the Hugo. No wonder they’re getting their glitter all in a flap (and we won’t even go near the latent sexism that such phallic shapes just happen to be perfect for feminine pleasure, because it’s got to be sexist, right? It couldn’t have anything to do with, oh… biology or evolution).

Another genius from Twitter:

“2014 Nebulas & all the fiction winners are women – The idea that women don’t belong in scifi has another nail in its coffin”

You know, apart from wondering why they need to keep putting nails in that damn coffin – surely they don’t think there’s something undead in there? – I have to wonder what the likes of Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey (herself a winner of both the Nebula and the Hugo back when they meant something) and such would think that there was ever more than a minority of socially inept (even by Odd standards) nerdy guys who were afraid of catching girl cooties that actually believed women didn’t belong in scifi.

Of course,we have to hear from tolerant, polite side of the debate:

“Another dinosaur complaining about the Nebulas. Wish they’d just leave sff and be hush for good.”

Gosh. And they call us nasty. We’ve never advocated kicking them out of anywhere, but we’re mean because we call them on tripe like this which isn’t that far off trying to claim we don’t deserve to exist. Don’t believe me? Consider this – there’s exactly one way to get someone to “be hush for good”. It’s called ‘dying’.

So naturally I had to go and find myself some preview text of the winning pieces. Now, before I start here, let me say that I have no argument whatsoever with Samuel Delaney’s Grand Master award. The man is a true giant of the field and deserves to stand with the other Grand Masters. Yes, I have read his work. Yes, I do know he’s black and gay. Do I care? Nope. He’s written some damn good books and that’s all that matters as far as the Grand Master award is concerned.

I started reading the novel winner. Went “wait, what?” This kind of cutesy games with pronouns was being done back in the sixties and they’re still calling it ground-breaking? No, it’s not. It’s confusing to readers who want to be able to tell who is whom (and in extreme cases, what). In addition to that, it’s clunky, sends confusing as hell signals (snow plus tavern then suddenly science fictiony trappings then we’re back to all the fantasy ‘medieval tavern’ signals. Screw that). One of the short form winners started “as you know, Bob”ing less than five paragraphs in. Another one was starting to look like a kind of maybe until it dropped the interesting and started an extended flashback infodump. And the shortest one was more like the output from someone on serious mind altering pharmaceuticals. I swear the only reason that one counted was instead of fantasizing the injured loved one had been a kick-ass warrior or something the dopey narrator fantasized him as a micro-T-rex.

Really. That is what is winning Nebula awards now.

Makes this little gem from Twitter look almost prescient:

“as great as it is that so many women won #nebulas, now i’m wondering what form the inevitable backlash will take.”

The backlash ain’t because so many women won. The backlash is because so much of what won is utter shit. Pardon my Australian. If this is the best SFF has to offer, the field is not dying, it’s dead.

Of course, it’s not the best that’s on offer. It’s the best SFWA’s governing Glittery Hoo Haas and Social Justice Warriors can find. Because glitter and “I’m special because I have a vagina” and social justice don’t make good fiction. They’re too busy beating people over the head with the message or claiming to break new ground that’s been broken and trampled so much it’s not just tamed, it’s frigging domesticated complete with frilly little apron.

Naturally, someone had to include a comparison with the Hugos, and the inevitable (and backwards) assumptions:

“Pretty healthy podium line-up in the Nebulas this year; I imagine the Hugo ballot-stuffers are suitably furious.”

Sorry darlin’. I’ve actually spoken to some of the alleged “Hugo ballot-stuffers” and they’re mostly finding this whole orgy of self-congratulatory masturbation rather amusing. And since nomination and voting for the Nebula’s is restricted to SFWA members, well. Let’s not forget this is the organization that expelled someone because they didn’t like what he said. The organization that has yet to publicly acknowledge who they expelled, much less why. Yes, everyone and their dog knows, mostly because the person who was expelled chose to make it public. Complete with his rebuttal of the claims (and shall we investigate just why SFWA’s officers felt the need to pull a DMCA takedown on their report? The one that is supposed to be a public document? Hm? I hear crickets chirping in the distance).

Not to mention, an award whose nominations must be made by members of a small organization and is voted on by members of the same small organization is much more vulnerable to ballot stuffing and other such shenanigans than an award that’s open (in terms of what gets nominated and the voting) to anyone with about $50 to spare for a supporting membership to the current Worldcon.

Oh wait… they mean that the wrong people can nominate the wrong people for Hugo Awards. And even worse, the wrong people can – are you prepared for this horrific revelation? – vote. Gosh. It’s a bit like the way Party membership in the old Soviet days protected people from those horrible, horrible anti-Communist thoughts, da Comrade?

Speaking of which:

“The SFWA is an organization composed of writers of SF&F. The nebulas can be voted upon by anyone in the SFWA–not a committee. There are quite diverse opinions among its membership.”

Yes, the opinions among SFWA’s membership are very diverse. They range from Marx worship all the way through to Stalin worship. With a sideline of Mao and Pol Pot for fun. Apart from the members who shut the fuck up because they don’t feel like being drawn and quartered for their heretical views. Yes, I know about this. I used to be one of those members. I am not a member any more, and believe me this makes me much happier.

There is a “review” of the winning novel on I don’t recommend anyone bother – not only is the review fangirl squee over fucking pronouns, it’s bad fangirl squee pretending to be a review. I’m not much of a reviewer, but at least when I’m going to go fangirly and squee all over the place I tell people up front so they can skip the post if they want. Yeesh.

Now all I need is one of Sarah’s gifferific images of the Glittery Hoo Haa and the Phallic Hugo to traumatize everyone forever (no! Don’t Google that… oh… um. I’m sure you’ll recover eventually?).

(The Kate slinks out and goes into deep, deep cover far from anything resembling Nebula, Glittery Hoo Haas, or Hugos)


  1. Well said, though the “be hush for good” translation is a bit of a stretch. I doubt they want them to die. I think this is more of a “wish you would just be quiet and do as you’re told because we’re in charge now” type of statement. Which is actually worse.

    1. Like I said, the only way anyone is going to be quiet permanently and never disobey their superiors is if they’re dead. I don’t know if that was the intended message or not, but either way it’s not a pretty sentiment.

      1. “I didn’t mean to kill him, your Honor,” isn’t exactly a winning defense.

        1. Not as a rule, no. And there are only so many places that will accept “he needed killing” – none of them particularly friendly towards the glittery hoo haa set.

  2. The Glittery Hoo Haas and Social Justice Warriors are on record as thinking outside the spherical*. These fragile flowers of femininity think that they are smart special snowflakes. Where we observe drivel, they probably see excellence – beyond the fact that the author has a particular set of plumbing.

    * I did not use the traditional term box, as it could offend delicate sensitivities and must be obviously sexist in this context.

    1. This is what happens when you discard everything because it has some flaws. You recreate old, mostly solved problems – and swap the box for a different box. Or sphere.

      1. There are some who think that if all you are talking about is boxes and rods they are all interchangeable.

  3. How did people get so deep into fandom as to be organizing and controlling the awards for the genre . . . without encountering the works of the great women writers of the previous generations?

    They used to say that women writers had to use male style pen names or at least stick to initials, in order to be more widely read. I used to laugh at the idea, but this lot has got me considering doing the same. They are making women writers look bad.

    1. And if you tried to point out that they are undoing everything women writers have been trying to do since the days of Baroness Orczy, they’ll decry you as a tool of the oppressor because you don’t understAaaaaand how important and deeply meaningful their work is because it no longer leans on the patriarchal supports of logic, sound construction, and hard science. I’m not sure if I should sigh or spit, bless their hearts.

      1. This is where living in the south for only the latest two-thirds of my life fails me. You may bless their hearts, and that is in fact quite proper. They don’t seem able to help the fact that they are the latest reiteration of helpless fliberty gibbits with the vapors. As one New England born friend of my put it, with a slight lifting of the gaze towards heaven, ‘Oh, brother!’

        1. Indeed so. And they insist on inflicting their vapors on the rest of us.

    2. Sixties hippie disease – nothing before their time was worth anything, so they recreate the wheel. Badly.

  4. Your points are correct. I grew up on the Bobbsy twins, Nancy Drew, Zane Gray and Pearl S. Buck. as just a few of the writers of my childhood. I even read “True Romances Magazines” It wasn’t until they had disappeared from the book rack that I learned that many of the female named writers for the romance magazines were men. (for shame)
    This morning one of my Facebook friends posted a cartoon of a horse with a girl on its back and Winston Churchill’s statement that ‘Horses were meant for man’s pleasure’ or something like that. The word ‘man’s’ was crossed out and ‘girl’s’ written in red beside it.
    I started to respond that Churchill was using the word ‘man’ in the generic sense and meant ‘mankind’ and skipped it. The picture of the rider being a girl would have done everything necessary to get the point across that girls like horses too, but, the females would be outraged that I would trivialize such an important distinction.

    1. Yes, indeed. I grew up on similar stuff. It never occurred to me that there was anything I couldn’t do outside the limits of biology. Those limits, well… not being able to pee standing up was probably the only specifically male one I hit. The rest were rather more general.

  5. The only Nebula winner this year that I’ve read is the short story, and I’m with you completely on that one, Kate. It reads like an MFA workshop story that got rejected by “The New Yorker,” so the author put in an imaginary dinosaur fantasy to make it “science fiction.”

    1. If that’s what’s winning Nebulas now, it’s not really an honor to get one anymore.

      1. No, it’s not. It’s more like evidence you sold your soul for some critical acclaim.

    2. Pretty much, Wesley. None of the winning entries impressed me. The short story was the only one I *finished* and that was mostly because it was so short.

    3. The lady who wrote “Alive, Alive-Oh” deserved to win. That was a phenomenal story, one I would’ve bought if I were in charge of a magazine/e-zine.

      I truly enjoyed Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice,” Kate. I gave it a very high ranking. But it’s not because of the nebulous pronouns. It’s because the being known as Breq was a computer, now finds herself human, and is struggling. To her, everything may as well be one pronoun because she can’t decode it anyway.

      Ultimately, I saw “Ancillary Justice” as a book that actually celebrates what’s good about being human. These people in Breq’s universe had mostly gone beyond humanity, yet still needed human officers (the actual soldiers were all “ancillaries,” those being controlled by computers, and the ultimate in expendables). So for an ancillary to wake up — even though that ancillary was once part of a ship, the Justice of Toren, and remembers being a computer — was striking.

      No, it’s not groundbreaking in the sense of the various Grandmasters you’ve mentioned. But it was the best novel I read last year by anyone I did not know already . . . and it was Leckie’s debut novel.

      Considering what Leckie was up against in the Nebula Awards, I see her as a fitting winner. But the stuff around it makes me cringe, because I’m like you — I think the fact that women write as well as men do was handled _many_ years ago. And we need to stop reinventing the wheel, or worse, pretending the wheel is a brand-new invention we just thought up, like it seems much of the SFWA crowd wants to do.

      1. Barb, at least you’re praising the novel on real merit, not the nonsense that’s being spouted. The sample I read didn’t appeal to me, and I found the pronoun thing too distracting, but it sounds like there’s a lot more there than the sample showed. That’s good to know.

        1. True, Kate. The nonsense is hard to swallow. I don’t like self-congratulatory navel-gazing any more than you do, and if I had seen that before I reviewed “Ancillary Justice” I probably would’ve been put off.

          And that would’ve been a shame. Because as a novel of military SF — which is *exactly* what it is, and it’s human wave SF, too, even though it’s packaged as neither — it’s extremely good.

          But yes, trying to say that Ms. Leckie re-invented the wheel — why do it? It’s not necessary. The work stands on its own merit.

          And again, who cares if she’s a woman, a transgendered man, or a Martian? The work is the work. (I’d like to hear James. B. Tiptree, Jr. — a woman under a pseud — roar over this one. You know _she’d_ have no patience with this tripe, either.)

  6. Presumabl;y the review you are referring to is the onte that starts:
    I enjoyed Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit: 2013) a lot. It’s such fun. A spaceship AI with human bodies that it uses to sing! Fragmentation of many-bodied entities! A culture with a non-gendered norm!

    With extra fun exclamation points!

    But is it new!? Spaceships that sing? now where have I read something like that before? Lemme see now. Ah yes that’s right wossname McCaffery. Yes indeed. I’m sure this new thing by Ann Leckie is so much better than the Ship who sang by Arthur McCaffery. It is Arthur isn’t it? Or is it Anndrew? Well something like that. I’m so glad we’ve got the proper feminist response with a female author writing about female space ships or something like that.

    [Sacastic? moi? surely not! and don’t call me Shirley!!11!]

    1. If I properly recall it the Borg had a functionally non-gendered society. (Or, as The Daughter observed, they probably wouldn’t have noticed if the Queen was technically male.) For many reasons, least of all that, I really wouldn’t want to be a member.

      The Daughter on hearing about this suggested they could try reading Ursula K. Le Guin — among things her, Left Hand of Darkness (published in 1969).

      Still, as previously observed, what does facts in evidence matter to these ideologues?

      1. The Borg are more parasites than anything else, since they subsume and incorporate other entities into themselves.Also, being a hive-mind, the basic unit is “we” which can encompass any number of genders. Or sexes.

        1. Any number of genders, or sexs, or none at all. Just so long as it serves the needs of collective at that moment.

          1. Much like the Communist – and post-modernist – attitude to facts, really.

    2. I’m not sure that “fangirl squee” adequately describes that particular review of “Ancillary Justice.” Although I’m not sure where you’d find a more accurate phrase, short of surfing for synonyms of “hard orgasm.”

      It certainly didn’t make _me_ want to read the novel. Actually, the only thing I have read from this year’s Nebula winners is, well, the dino-revenge-porn thing. I think I lost at least five IQ points in the doing. Not sure I want to risk what’s left of my consciousness on any of the other “winners,” if that’s typical of what SFWA considers worthy of praise.

      Incidentally, if it matters,’s Niall Alexander is previewing next year’s likely Nebula winner here:

      What’s so special about Sarah Lotz’s “The Three?” Well, it’s “a horror novel with a hell of a high concept,” according to Alexander. The high concept being…yet another literary denunciation of the “religious right.” Yawn.


      1. But But… It’s so brave to be against the Religious Right!!!! [Sarcasm]

      2. Lovely hashtag there. And yeah, there really isn’t a more polite way to describe that alleged review than “bad fangirl squee”. I was trying to keep most of the rant more or less polite, so I passed on the possibilities of glitteryhoohaagasm.

        Oh, ye gods. Another literary denunciation of the “Religious Right”? I bet it’s not the Islamic religious right, either. Nobody denounces THEM (presumably because they’re allergic to impromptu beheadings).

        1. Nahhh – get involved in a historical-societal discussion in the wrong crowd and let drop that the current islamic culture, no matter what they may have invented/preserved/looted?/brought over in the past, and despite the current respect for doctors/etc., does not value craftsmen and workers/plumbers/etc., and has a difficulty maintaining any sort of manufacturing/design base, and that anytime they are given the option to throw money at the problem and bring in outside experts vs. leverage the experts to develop their own, they simply hire, and, well…

          “I can’t believe I’m sitting here and hearing such bigoted stuff come out of your mouth. I’m sitting here trying to hear you out, and you SEEM to be knowledgeable… but you’re using such a broad brush”

          Turns out the husband was Iranian, had 40 patents… I mention that culture != individual and vice versa…

          “So did he choose to live in the states?”

          “Oh, he wants to go back, but hasn’t been able to since the revolution, they’d kill him.”

          ding, ding, ding , ding, ding……..

          My turkish friend’s english wife starts turning red and flustered when he and I chat about the middle east, because I’ve heard her denounce people for islamophobia for far less than this “secular, cultural muslim” has to say about his religiously devout cohorts…..

      3. yet another literary denunciation of the “religious right.” Yawn.

        I’m guessing you aren’t referring to the devout believers of the religion of “peace” because where would the challenge be there?

        1. To be fair, what that particular faith believes will ultimately bring peace. Graves are peaceful, right?

      4. Wee- Thursday (That’s the day they add water to the pool) No more diving on concrete.) Someone gave her a six figure advance for that? I wonder who’s going to get a soaking; it won’t be the church.

        1. They have to show solidarity or something. Besides, it’s not about making money. It’s about raising consciousness (yes, I have heard editors say this. In public. To not-editors)

      5. “The high concept being…yet another literary denunciation of the ‘religious right.’ Yawn.”

        To be as fair as possible, if that review is to be believed the novel’s criticisms are largely levelled not at American Christianity per se but at some presumed small portion of it which uses its religious faith (or selective interpretations/misinterpretations thereof) to justify wrongdoing. Which is in itself not an unjustified criticism; there are and always will be such people. (And if, after all, the point is to criticize those who *twist* religious teachings to justify atrocious actions, then by definition a faith whose tenets don’t really *need* to be so twisted isn’t really a good match for that thesis.)

        That is, of course, in principle. In practice, I would be curious to know (a) if the assumptions and implications of the story are that these “justified wrongdoers” exist in much greater volume than they actually do; (b) if any of their benevolent co-believers are presented for effective contrast; (c) what exactly is being “justified” (rationalized) here (graft? murder? torture orgies?), and whether we’re meant to assume the religious communities being depicted have a much lower “pass the smell test” plausibility threshold for these rationalizations than we “enlightened” horror fans. One can *say*, with virtuous innocence, “I’m only criticizing the bad apples, not the bunch,” but still do it in such a way as to make even the “good” apples look profoundly unappetizing.

        1. Two points.

          1) “Religious Right” is a “blanket term” for any religious person who doesn’t vote Democratic.

          2) Most “Lefties” get religious people completely wrong so no matter what the writer intended their readers would likely believe all non-Democratic religious people are like the characters in the story.

          1. Fair points, though I’d suggest waiting to at least skim the novel first before assuming its characters fit these stereotypes. And even if the specific characters depicted do fit, the story may make clear that they are atypical examples.

            I say this, of course, assuming available time and emotional interest. Lack of either has always been enough reason for me not to bother with any given work, as long as those factors are admitted.

    3. That would probably be the one. It’s not exactly the kind of review that inspires one to read the book – and that’s without deconstructing the kind of biology that would evolve a non-gendered language.

    1. Oh dear… I didn’t mean to make your stomach hurt by exposing you to those abominations.

        1. Ouch. Yeah, that kind of rancid self-absorption would do a number on a sensitive stomach.

  7. I’ve been reading the letter columns of old Amazing Stories. Funny how all the women and minority readers back then were concerned with the Good Stuff, good stories that kept you up all night, not hoohas and ethnic origin of the writers.

    1. Yeah, funny that. You’d almost think they cared about good stories and not who had innies or outies.

      1. One wishes one could go back to that time, Kate.

        But since I can’t, I may as well use my feminine pronouns to denounce them. 😉

        1. Heh. I like that approach.

          Really the whole pronoun thing is ignorant and silly. What kind of culture would develop a language with no identification of male/female/other? (It would probably be less crazy than German where the grammatical gender can bear no relation to the actual gender… That was SO hard to deal with when I studied German in high school – I’m still traumatized by it!)

          1. That’s a good analogy, Kate. I studied German in high school, too. Don’t know that I can say I was traumatized by it, but confused? Probably. 😉

            The gender thing wasn’t as important in Ann Leckie’s novel to me as Breq coming to terms with being human. There are advantages to being human, as well as disadvantages. I thought Leckie did that rather well.

            But if it were just about the pronouns? My goodness, as others have already said, Ursula K. LeGuin did this with “The Left Hand of Darkness.” She did it better than *anyone*. That book stands up today. I do not think it will ever be equaled.

            And the idea of Breq being a ship that liked singing? Unless that’s an homage to Anne McCaffrey (which it might be; you never know), well, that’s been done before, too.

            I think what annoys you about “Ancillary Justice,” though, is the fawning it’s received recently. I didn’t see that before I wrote my review and it’s just as well. That would’ve irked me severely. It may well have interfered with my reading pleasure. And that book stands up very well (“Ancillary Justice,” I mean) as a novel way of looking at milSF. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and believe that it _is_ a very good novel even if some of the trappings, taken by themselves, do not exactly thrill me. (It’s done well. Does that make sense?)

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