Women Triumph At The 2015 Nebula Awards – Why This Victory Matters.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Science Fiction and Fantasy are genres dominated by straight white men. This has been the norm for decades and not until the 21st century did this dominance get called into question in prominent and visible ways.

Science Fiction and Fantasy as a whole still have a lot of progress to make when it comes to representing women and people of color. Writers of these genres who are not straight white men do exist, but they may experience more obstacles to getting published, and when they do their work may be overlooked because sci-fi and fantasy media coverage is dominated by white men. Especially in literary magazines, where the majority of reviews are written by men about books written by men as well. I won’t even go into how little coverage books written by people color get — it’s too depressing. 

Speaking of depressing, do you all remember how horribly cringe-worthy, racist, and sexist the Hugo Awards Sad Puppies fiasco was last year? Goodness, that was a mess. If you haven’t heard about this, please do read up on it, as I will reference it frequently moving forward. 

The point I’m trying to make is that Science Fiction and Fantasy have a complicated relationship and history with women and people of color. Which is why the Nebula Awards over the last 5 years have been one of the few rays of hope and in 2016 a cause for celebration. (Sad Puppies will remain sad, however.)

On May 14, 2016 women swept the all awards from the four main categories:

Best Novel

Uprooted – by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Best Novella

Binti – by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Best Novelette

Our Lady of the Open Road – by Sarah Pinsker

Best Short Story 

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers – by Alyssa Wong

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong

This is wonderful and welcomed news, of course, as the Nebula Awards are one of the most prestigious honors for the genre. But it’s also important to note that this year’s awards were not the only time women have swept the major categories. Actually, women have dominated the these awards over the last 5 years! 15 out of the last 20 winners of the four main categories have been women. Proof: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.

The Nebula Awards are critically important today because they recognize and validate the work of women in a genre that has historically marginalized, excluded, offended, objectified, and so many other terrible things. Women deserve equal and fair representation in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Nebula Awards are true believers of that. 

I cannot wait to see the men complaining about how women are stealing all their awards. The Sad Puppies are probably sobbing rivers of petty man tears because their tired old ideas of what Speculative Fiction should be have been rejected, or perhaps forgotten. I wouldn’t be surprised if they redouble their efforts for the 2016 Hugo Awards and offer even more cringe-worthy, sexist, and racist nonsense. 

The myth that only men consume and genuinely understand Science Fiction and Fantasy needs to be debunked and eradicated entirely. Men who perpetuate this myth do so because they want to hold on to something they believe belongs to them. To these people, all I have to say is this — men are not inherently entitled to anything, yet they control and own so much. When will they be satisfied?

So why does all of this matter? Why is it important that women are winning some awards for genre fiction?

Because women created Science Fiction. Mary Shelley popularized the genre in 1818 with Frankenstein, and over the last several decades, women such as Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Ursula K. LeGuin, Madeleine L’Engle, Robin Hobb, Nalo Hopkinson, and many more lent their voices to the Science Fiction and Fantasy literary canon.

The victories of women at the Nebula Awards are important because they’re signaling a shift in the culture of Speculative Fiction. Representation truly does matter, and if young writers see women commended, recognized, and awarded for their work in the genre, then they may also be inspired to write their own stories. That’s because diversity and visibility of underrepresented communities only begets more visibility and acceptance. Nothing will change if nobody speaks up and speaks out.

As a society, we should always strive to progress, not regress. Women are invariably at the forefront of progress, so we should listen to their unique voices and perspectives. I literally cannot think of any literary, artistic, political, or social movement that would not benefit from the contribution of women. Perhaps if the Sad Puppies actually understood women they wouldn’t be so sad and miserable. I fear they are a lost cause, though. 

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19 thoughts on “Women Triumph At The 2015 Nebula Awards – Why This Victory Matters.

  1. I love when women are given awards for their wonderful contributions, especially in male-dominated fields. It’s sad that there are still so many people who think that women have nothing to offer in these areas and I love seeing women achieve and prove those people wrong.

  2. Ugh those Sad Puppies with their #masculinitysofragile and heaps of rape threats misogynistic and racist crap! That Hugo shitstorm was horrid and emblematic of their privileged attitude in what you rightly pointed out is a genre invented by women.
    Love the Nebula list and especially the Binti win! I will have to catch up on many works on this list and it will be a pleasure 🙂

    1. Alyssa Wong’s story sounds so weird but cool. I need to read it!
      I’m scared to think of what they’re coming up with for the 2016 Hugos, but I’m ready to shut those Sad Puppies down. So ready.

  3. I’ve only started getting into sci fi/fantasy/speculative fiction in the last couple of years, so I haven’t followed the Nebula Awards, but I am psyched about that winner list. I really want to read Uprooted and Binti. I’ve not ready any Nnedi Okoafor yet but I am going to before the end of the year for sure. I think Lagoon will be my first one of hers.

    I had heard of the Sad Puppies but didn’t read about them until your article links. UGH. Such a shame. I wonder what will happen at this year’s Hugos re: voting process?

    1. Uprooted sounds so good, I love the cover and the concept.
      Nnedi Okorafor is such a prolific writer and you can’t go wrong with any of her books. I still haven’t read her novels, but I think I will tart with Who Fears Death.

      Omg, the Sad Puppies mess was so bad. Sigh. I’m scared to think of what will happen at this year’s Hugo. 😡

  4. It was always interesting for me to read an Atwood story–no, actually, I mean study an Atwood story– for school as I always had, in the back of my mind, this gnawing feeling that she was on a mission to lay waste to some form of commentary in the world (re: speculative fiction). I mean I generally liked what I’ve read so far but haha just a passing thought.

    I’ve actually really wanted to read Uprooted and have been waiting to snag a cheaper copy for myself as I’ve heard a 80/20 ratio of praise-to-negativity, and that’s promising!

    1. I’ve seen Uprooted everywhere in stores. It’s always prominently displayed in the Fantasy/Scifi section at Barnes & Noble. I didn’t really pay attention to it until now.
      It’s so good to hear it’s as good as I expected. 🙂

  5. As a woman who is super into tech and loves sci-fi this makes me so happy. Every time I see women dominate in this field and genre it’s so inspiring and rewarding. Even though I’m more on the tech side of things, I’ve had to deal with so many “but you’re a girl… how do you even know how to use a computer for things besides online shopping” digs. When I was doing my Digital Media diploma I was one of only three girls in the class and one of the guys was like, “what is a girl even doing here?” to me lmao. It’s so great seeing women get recognition, because hell yes we can do it too. I love how people conveniently forget that we pioneered this genre. I will also forever be laughing at those men and their fragile egos.

    1. Women in tech are awesome and so are you! 🙂
      Yeah, it sucks that women have to experience subtle and sometimes over sexism for stuff like this. I can’t believe a guy would even say that to you so openly. What a douchenozzle. Ugh!

      I will also forever be laughing those petty men who feel entitled to everything for no reason at all.

    1. I’m thrilled for the future installments of Binti. I just knew the story couldn’t be over. 😀
      Oh, I didn’t know Wong’s short story was free. I tried to find it on Kindle but had no luck. I bet I could easily find it online, though. Thanks for letting me know!

  6. pfff I didn’t know about the Sad Puppies thing till now, cos I really don’t pay attention to awards or anything like this, but this is the kind of thing that has the potential to wind me up. I get the sentiment of wanting people to win based on merit and I get the whole “let’s not make this political” argument- but protest votes for “no award” are just mean-spirited. Why stand in the way of someone’s success? Why not just vote for someone else you like instead? And why not have it be based on the person you like the most- regardless of whether that person is a white man or a woman from an ethnic minority? That would drum home the whole message of voting on merit more- instead of making it about taking away people’s merit. (See- I told you this had the potential to wind me up)

    On the plus side, I really wanna read Uprooted at some point- so I’m glad it’s so highly rated 🙂

  7. I understand why this would wind you up. It does the same to me.

    While I do agree that “no award” being given 5 times was a bit extreme, and certainly mean-spirited, it wasn’t any more so than the hateful nonsense the Sad and Rabid Puppies were spewing. I am perfectly OK with people fighting back. When the Sad Puppies got political, then it was all fair game. People weren’t ok with them just highjacking the nominations. And that’s exactly what happened. The nominations are decided by the fans (WorldCon members). So some people couldn’t vote for what they wanted because the Sad Puppies had taken over the nomination rosters due to sheer numbers. They’re not a small and insignificant group.

    Of course I approve of the idea that winners should be based on merit. But this was a special and outrageous case. The people who decided to take away merit were the Sad Puppies, not the people who fought back.

    1. Ah I see, I thought Sad Puppies did both the voting block and the “no award” thing- my bad- these things are always so much more complicated than they need to be. I get what you mean about how they shouldn’t have made this political- cos they definitely shouldn’t- but I kind of see this as a hollow victory for the other camp, cos two wrongs don’t make a right and (sorry to disagree) I don’t see how this did any good. They’re both as bad as each other and should have their heads knocked together.

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