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Okorafor's book is among those being considered for this year's Best Novel Nebula Award.

The Oscars and Grammys may be over, but those of us invested in seeing our favorite art and artists win the recognition they deserve can still look forward to this year’s various literary award ceremonies. Among those ceremonies is the Nebula Awards, which along with the Hugos are some of the most important to be given to works of science-fiction, fantasy and speculative literature.

The Nebulas have been awarded each year since 1965 by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, an organization of authors who’ve published genre fiction in the form of novels, short stories, screenplays and more. The first novel to receive a Nebula? Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Nominees for the 2010 Nebula Awards were announced in an official press release on Feb. 22, and voting officially closed Wednesday. While there are outstanding nominations in six different categories – short story, novelette, novella, novel, dramatic presentation and young adult – here are the novels you might want to check out before the winners are announced on May 21:

The Native Star by M.K. Hobson is a fantasy work with zombies, warlocks and steampunk technology set in Reconstruction-era America.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is the first book in a trilogy about a young woman who must compete with her cousins’ political machinations for control of her violent homeland.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal might find fans among devoted readers of Austen. Set in an alternative Regency era, Kowal’s book involves a young woman seeking magical tutelage from a Byronic older gentleman.

Echo by Jack McDevitt is actually the fifth entry in a sci-fi series about an investigation into the truth of Earth’s past and future. Sort of Indiana Jones meets Sherlock Holmes meets spaceships.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is truly a work of speculative fiction, with elements of fantasy and the supernatural combining to buttress a coming-of-age story set in post-apocalyptic Africa.

Blackout and All Clear are two novels by Connie Willis published back-to-back, but considered one long work. They follow three historians from 2060 Oxford who travel back in time to study World War II. Of course they are trapped there and must then find their way back home.

All six best novel nominees may be found in local book stores, on Amazon.com and in ebook format. And if you’re going to be in Washington, D.C. from May 19-22, you might consider dropping in on Nebula Awards Weekend to find out which novel will pick up the prize.

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My buddy Max is Canadian, therefore he likes maple syrup and hockey. A secret fact about him, though, is that he also likes James Bond. And so it goes that during this past week when school demands were less than zero, a good amount of time was spent charging through 007: Nightfire for the GameCube. And as the computer-rendered Pierce Brosnan drove machine-gun mounted Aston Martins, powered his way into outer space, and managed to end every mission by hooking-up with a computer-rendered Bond girl, a thought came to mind…what happened to the spy novel?

While James Bond is better known from the movies, his first appearances were through Ian Flemming’s 1950s novels. There were by no means any groundbreaking literary achievements in these books, but they were entertaining. President John F. Kennedy named From Russia With Love as one of his favorite books, and if it’s good enough for him, then it’s good enough for me (Imagine if presidents had enough free time to contribute blurbs for the back flap of books).

Even other popular spies today originated from the minds of authors, such as Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne (but even those novels came from the 70s). The closest thing going on in the literary sphere right now might have to be Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp (but his stories are more political thrillers) or Tom Clancy’s latest Rainbow Six installment Dead or Alive (but that book is a thousand page tome and the title reminds me too much of Bon Jovi, which should never be associated with spies).

If there were ever a genre that needs a revival, the prototypical suave spy with the memorable two or three syllable name would be it. C’mon now, writer who’s perusing college literary blogs and is now reading this cry for help…jumpstart the spy novel. And besides, all of the other genre markets are pretty filled up…we’ve already done the vampire to hell and back, along with pirates…gimme guns and espionage!