Indies find success at the Nebula awards


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From the independently produced, Oscar-nominated movie “District 9” to Catherynne M. Valente’s self-published young adult novel “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,” independent works were well rewarded at the 2009 Nebula Awards.

Organized by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and voted on by its membership, the annual Nebula Awards were announced at a banquet in Cocoa Beach, Fla., on Saturday.


Valente’s young adult novel, which was available for free online for more than a year, has now been picked up by a traditional publisher and will appear in print. Another winner -- the short story “Spar” by Kij Johnson -- was also published online and made available to readers for free on the Web magazine Clarksworld.

But the depth of support for independents went beyond freebies. The winning novella, “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s” by Kage Baker, was published by Michigan-based independent Subterranean Press. And the winning novel -- perhaps the Nebula’s most cherished prize -- went to Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl,” published by San Francisco-based Nightshade Books, founded in 1997. The movie “District 9” took the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, beating out the big-budget “Star Trek” and even bigger-budget “Avatar.”

What does this mean exactly? Do independent producers of science fiction stretch further than the majors? Are the tastes of true science fiction devotees a few time shifts ahead of those of the more general, “Avatar”-going audience?

It’s steampunk, science fiction website io9 noted, that propelled both the novel and novella winners to victory. If science fiction’s core fans are leading the way, perhaps we’ll see steampunk making further incursions into the mainstream.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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