The Best of the Nebula, Ed. Ben Bova

Tor, 1989, 593 pages, C$17.00 tpb, ISBN 0-312-93175-1

A 600-pages book full of the “best Nebula-winning stories”.

To me, that sounds dreadful. I prefer Hugos to Nebulas: My liking for storytelling over literary prowess is well-known, and so is (despite a few exceptions) the preference of the SFWA for literary prowess over storytelling.

And yet, I’ve made a point to read all the Nebula-winning novels, and most of the Nebula-winning stories. The Best of the Nebula offered a chance to complete my collection.

The books is edited by Ben Bova, who not only serves us a lousy introduction, but also a few paternalistic introductions. As for the actual content, most of the stories are “classics”… this despite actual quality or entertainment value.

For instance, I’ve never been able to read McCafferey’s “Dragonrider” to the end, and this anthology only serves to up the number of tentative to five. Most of Zelazny, Tiptree, Delany, Leiber, Russ or LeGuin’s material doesn’t impress me, and this didn’t change with The Best of the Nebula either. On the other hand, I’m glad I finally read Martin’s “Sandkings”, Ellison’s “A Boy and his Dog”, Silverberg’s “Passengers” and Moorcock’s “Behold the Man”.

This anthology offers a fairly good overview of slightly higher-grade SF for the literate neophyte, but fans of the genre will want to take a look at the table of content before buying it.

I’ve played the game, and selected my favourite Nebulas since 1965. Here’s the list:

Novels

  • Dune, Frank Herbert (1965)
  • Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke (1973)
  • The Forever War, Joe Haldeman (1975)
  • Man Plus, Frederik Pohl (1976)
  • Gateway, Frederik Pohl (1977)
  • Startide Rising, David Brin (1983)
  • Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (1985)
  • Moving Mars, Greg Bear (1994)
  • The Terminal Experiment, Robert J. Sawyer (1995)

Short Stories

  • “Repent Harlequin!, Said the Ticktockman”, Harlan Ellison (1965)
  • “Behold the Man”, Michael Moorcock (1967)
  • “The Screwfly Solution”, Alice Sheldon (1977)
  • “GiANTS”, Edward Bryant (1979)
  • “Tangents”, Greg Bear (1986)

Novelettes and Novellas

  • “A Meeting with Medusa”, Arthur C. Clarke (1972)
  • “The Bicentennial Man”, Isaac Asimov (1976)
  • “Sandkings”, George R. R. Martin (1979)
  • “The Ugly Chicken”, Howard Waldrop (1980)
  • “Blood Music”, Greg Bear (1983)
  • “The Night We Buried Road Dog”, Jack Cady (1993)

…and a few others, mostly in the Novel and Longer Short Stories category, but that’ll do for now. Of course, my list of favorite Hugo-winners is far, far more interesting…

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