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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 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.



On Christmas, my brother handed me a pretty sizeable box. I unwrapped it to find more boxes and even more taped surfaces. “Oh no,” I said out loud, conscious of what I was in for. I tore the gift down anyway, layer by layer, one empty box after another, to finally get to a glass penguin no bigger than my thumb. I placed it upright on my palm and looked at it, and that’s when I discovered the secret to being cute:

You have to be tiny.

Everything seems more adorable miniaturized. Babies’ toes are just delightful. The adult version is, well, not so much. Ferocious creatures like lions, bears and dinosaurs are endearing when we imagine them to be just three inches high. Even the tiny robots in Transformers drew a couple of “aww”s from the audience (despite the fact that they were shooting at people).

Likewise, in writing, there seems to be a growing interest in shorter and shorter stories. We’ve always had novels, novellas, and short stories; we’re even able to compress our thoughts into pieces of flash fiction. But today, the expansion of the internet has allowed writers to have more control over their weblogs and web magazines, to make their pieces more widely read, reviving an interest in extremely short stories that would take web-surfers only a few hundred seconds to finish. Mostly known as micro-fiction (or tiny stories, tiny fiction, little stories, very short stories, and possibly even extremely-ultrally-superduperly-mega-short-stories) these pieces are usually just a couple hundred words, and they are definitely just delightful. Read the rest of this entry »

In a broadcast interview on Friday, U.S. Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), concluded his discussion on terrorism with the enjoinment that children “go to bed on time because Santa only visits houses where kids are sleeping.” NORAD is a joint organization between Canada and the U.S. that monitors the skies and seas of North America, providing air sovereignty enforcement, defense, and aerospace warning for the two countries. But every Christmas Eve since 1955, this group, one of the most technologically advanced military commands in the world, adds Santa to its list of monitored parties.

Over the last several hundred years, the Santa Claus story has changed very little. From a literary standpoint, the tradition of NORAD Tracks Santa is one of the very few modern additions to the tale that has survived beyond the span of an ad campaign. Taking the element of the narrative that involves Santa’s travels around the globe, NORAD infuses the folk tale with a bit of twenty-first century technology. It is due to traditions like these that Santa and his story continue to not only charm but truly touch so many people. Last year alone, NORAD answered 74,000 phone calls and 3.500 e-mails for Santa. Clearly, NORAD’s techie addition to the tale represents a significant link between the fairy tale of Santa Claus and the children of the Computer Age.

David, the mascot of the 2010 Festival
Sadly, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will not be held at UCLA, or at least not for the year of 2011. Instead, the Los Angeles Times and USC have negotiated and come to an agreement that USC will host the massive book fair that in the past has completely taken over the UCLA campus. The L.A. Times cites its move to USC as a means to become bigger and better.

The move to USC will supposedly allow more to experience at the festival as well as greater public access due to USC’s centrality and proximity to public transportation. The UCLA Newsroom stated that while UCLA is disappointed that the Festival of Books will be located elsewhere, it is not surprised. In negotiations, the Times wanted to increase profits and reduce costs which would require more subsidization on UCLA’s part, subsidization that UCLA cannot provide at this point in time.

For UCLA students, the move of the Festival of Books is a hard loss. The Festival of Books was a springtime tradition, a weekend for students to walk onto campus and instead of going to class or a club, to see a panel of their favorite author or to find some new exciting treasure to read. It was a weekend to forget about classes for the day and enjoy the pleasures of books without having to travel. The Festival of Books was like a literary circus coming into our very home. It will be sorely missed by the students.

The rows of books
As a second-year, I only had the chance to experience the fair once. My friends had told me about it and I was excited for its arrival. It exceeded my expectations. Rows upon rows of books covered the campus. As I walked around I could hear through speakers a famous celebrity like Sarah Silverman talking or I would happen across a poetry reading that would make me pause and reflect.  It’s unfortunate that the classes following mine will not get to share in this experience.

Even though it will be at USC, thirty minutes across town from UCLA, I will still consider attending the festival. I think many people will as well. USC and UCLA may be rivals, but when it comes to the literary world, we can put that aside for a good book.

The L. A. Times Festival of Books will be from April 30th to May 1st.