Fairy Tales, Space Stations, and a Sequel to The Thing: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2018, edited by Jane Yolen

Fairy Tales, Space Stations, and a Sequel to The Thing: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2018, edited by Jane Yolen

Nebula Awards Showcase 2018-smallThe annual Nebula Awards Showcase anthologies, which collect the Nebula Award nominees and winners, are edited by a revolving committee of editors, and that means the criteria used to select the fiction varies every year.

I think this is a great idea. Essentially, each year it gives editorial power to a new individual to select which stories to showcase. The winners are always included, of course, but picking between the nominees (especially in the novella category, which frequently would fill one and a half anthologies all on its own) is a challenge, and it needs a strong editorial hand to make tough decisions.

For example in 1980, for Nebula Winners Fourteen, Frederik Pohl jettisoned virtually every single short fiction nominee (and all the novelettes) so he could make room for just two stories, C. J. Cherryh’s Hugo Award-winning “Cassandra,” and Gene Wolfe’s massive 60-page novella “Seven American Nights.” That had to be a tough call, but I think it was the right one.

In the 2018 Showcase volume, editor Jane Yolen makes a similar choice. Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, which won the Best Novella Nebula, is a massive 176 pages, far bigger even than Gene Wolfe’s 60-page classic, and would throughly dominate the anthology. Instead, for the first time I can remember, Yolen has chosen not to include the full version of the Nebula Award winning novella, but rather represent it with a 20-page excerpt. That leaves her with enough space to include every short story and novelette nominee (or at least, as is the case for Fran Wilde’s 96-page The Jewel and Her Lapidary, a substantial excerpt).

It’s a bold decision, and I applaud it. The 2018 Nebula Awards Showcase is a terrific volume, and it certainly gives you the opportunity to sample a wide variety of top-notch fiction from last year, including the delightfully subversive fairy tale “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar, Sam J. Miller’s thoughtful and creepy sequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, “Things With Beards,” Caroline M. Yoachim’s “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station / Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0,” and excerpts from All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

If you’re looking for a Best Of collection that encapsulates some of the finest science fiction from last year, it makes a splendid choice. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Introduction by Jane Yolen

Best Short Story

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong
“Sabbath Wine” by Barbara Krasnoff
“Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller
“Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station / Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0” by Caroline M. Yoachim
“This Is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander
“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar

Best Novelette

Excerpt from The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” by Jason Sanford
“Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea” by Sarah Pinsker
“The Orangery” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong
“The Long Fall Up” by William Ledbetter

Best Novella

Excerpt from Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Excerpt from All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Excerpt from Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
Past Nebula Award Winners

Our previous coverage of Nebula anthologies includes:

Nebula Awards One and Two
Cloud Sculptors, Dragon Riders, and an Unearthly Craps Game: Nebula Award Stories 3, edited by Roger Zelazny, by William I. Lengeman III
Nebula Winners Fourteen, edited by Frederik Pohl
Nebula Awards Showcase 2014, edited by Kij Johnson
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015, edited by Greg Bear
Nebula Awards Showcase 2016, edited by Mercedes Lackey
Nebula Awards Showcase 2017, edited by Julie E. Czerneda
The 2011 Nebula Award Winners
The 2012 Nebula Award Winners
The 2013 Nebula Award Winners
The 2015 Nebula Award Winners
The 2016 Nebula Award Winners
The 2017 Nebula Award Winners

Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 was published on August 7, 2018 by Pyr. It is 287 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Galen Dara.

See all our recent coverage of new fantasy here.

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This is actually the second time that the novella winner wasn’t presented in full.

In NEBULA AWARDS SHOWCASE 2005, edited by Jack Dann, Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline” also appears only as an excerpt.

It’s regrettable, but as you point out, some novellas are just too long to allow room for much else.

[…] (19) YOLEN’S NEBULA ANTHOLOGY. Black Gate’s John O’Neill defends an editorial decision in “Fairy Tales, Space Stations, and a Sequel to The Thing: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2018, edited b…: […]

Rich Horton

Plus, “Every Heart a Doorway” is kind of a weak story. (And very long.) Next to “Seven American Nights” … one of the great novellas in SF history … well, it would be sad.

(The good news is, the prequel to “Every Heart a Doorway”, “Down Among the Sticks and Bones”, is by contrast quite fantastic.)

Rich Horton

To be sure, much as “The Persistence of Vision” was loved at the time (and I suppose probably still is) I have to suspect Pohl chose “Seven American Nights” partly as a rebuke to the voters — you could have chosen this incredible Wolfe story, and instead you chose this?


John, I have little grasp of Nebula history—certainly no more than you—but I did take the trouble to list all the stories that have appeared in the series, so I can easily generate useless trivia.

For example, there is one story that has appeared, in full, in two different Nebula volumes. Can anybody guess what it is? I’ll post the answer about a day from now. 🙂

Rich Horton

I’m going to guess (without looking) that it must have been a story that won (or was nominated for) a Nebula, written by a writer later named Grand Master. Perhaps “Repent!, Harlequin, said the Ticktockman”?


Your reasoning is impeccable, Rich!

That’s not the story (or the Grand Master), though …


Credible guess, John, but it’s not the McIntyre, either. If there’s one more wrong guess, I’ll give the answer! 🙂

R.K. Robinson

First, I think the definitions of novella and novelette need revising. Regardless of word count, 200 pages is a novel in my book. It seems these days short stories – which used to be short, not the 40-50 pages some are now! – novelettes and novellas grow ever longer. Maybe we need another category between Novella and novel for these mammoth stories.

Second, Though I buy several “Best of” SFF anthologies each year, including Gardner (sadly no more), Strahan, Horton, etc. in spite of overlap, I’ve given up on the Nebula sets for the very reason that the editor seems to do whatever they like and I don’t want excerpts in such an anthology. They might be better to produce two slimmer volumes, one for the shorter works and the other for…?


You have some telling points. I also don’t like excerpts. A work of fiction is a work of art, and a work of art is created to be exactly the right length. If an author writes a 200 page novella, that’s the length she or he wanted it to be. An excerpt of 30 pages doesn’t give you what the author intended. You can’t just cut out the Mona Lisa’s face because you don’t have room for the whole painting.

So I agree—I skip excerpts if they’re included in an anthology. I also agree that the traditional categories have created the possibility of awkwardly long novellas, which we are now seeing quite often because of electronic publishing.

Before the era of electronic publication, most novellas tended to coalesce around a word count of about 22,500 words—not all that much above the novelette limit. Editors of print anthologies could usually fit one or two of those in. In fact, Gardner sometimes crammed in five or six novellas in his annual.

Now, a lot of novellas are just too long. So I think the short fiction categories should max out at about 25,000 words, and because I love short fiction, I’d still like to see three categories up to that length.

Then we can have a new category called “Short Novel”, running from 25,000 words to about 60,000. Beyond that, you’re running with the big dogs.


The story that appeared twice in the Nebula Awards series is “The Listeners”, by James Gunn.

It first appeared in NEBULA AWARD STORIES FOUR, edited by Poul Anderson, because the story had been on the final ballot for the award.

Then it appeared again in NEBULA AWARDS SHOWCASE 2008, edited by Ben Bova, after Gunn had been made a Grand Master.

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