Nebula Award Stories Eleven, edited by Ursula Le Guin (1977)
Just a bit of explanation: The Nebula Awards are presented annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America and are voted on by its membership. It is one of the two major annual awards in science fiction, the other being the Hugo Award, voted on by registered attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention. (There is a third, lesser-known but still cherished award -- The Jerry, which is given freely to anyone who supplies me with donuts and/or pizza. Play your cards right and you, too, may receive a coveted Jerry.) Now, on to the review.
1975 was a banner year for science fiction.
Joe Haldeman's classic war novel The Forever War won the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. (Other contenders were The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, and The Female Man by Joanna Russ -- heady competition indeed.) It also win the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1976. The book details the centuries-spanning interstellar war between Earth against the enigmatic Tauran civilization. For this anthology, LeGuin has chosen "End Game," a section of the novel first published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, January 1975.
Roger Zelazny won the Best Novella Award (and the Hugo Award) for "Home Is the Hangman" (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, November 1975). A sentient space-exploring robot, previously thought lost, has returned to Earth and one of its original designers has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Is there a link? (Other stories nominated that year were "The Storms of Windhaven" by Lisa Tuttle and George R. R, Martin, "A Momentary Taste of Being" by "James Tiptree, Jr.", and "Sunrise West" by William K. Carlson.)
Tom Reamy, a blazing talent who died much too young, took the Nebula for Best Novelette with "San Diego Lightfoot Sue" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1975). A Kansas boy falls in love with a prostitute when she moves to Los Angeles; the prostitute casts a spell to rejuvenate herself, but magic can be tricky. (Other stories nominated were "The Final Fighting of Finn MacCumhaill" by Randall Garrett, "Retrograde Summer" by John Varley, "A Galaxy Called Rome" by Barry N. Malzberg, and "The Custodians" by "Richard Cowper".)
The Best Short Story Award went to one of the best short story writers ever, Fritz Leiber, for "Catch That Zeppelin!" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1975). Leiber placed himself in this alternate history story, as he sees a zeppelin moored to the Empire State Building in 1973. He has shifted to another timeline where Germany's defeat in World War I was so decisive that peace and international prosperity grew and that the Hindenberg disaster never happened because the US sold non-volatile helium to Germany for their dirigibles. And there's a peaceful German airship engineer named Adolf Hitler. (Four of the other nominees for this award were "Sail the Tide of Mourning" by Richard Lupoff, "Utopia of a Tired Man" by Jorge Luis Borges, "A Scraping of the Bones" by A. J. Budrys, and "Doing Lennon" by Greg Benford. An additional three short story nominees -- listed below -- were selected by Le Guin to fill out this volume.)
"Child of All Ages" by P. J. Plauger (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, March 1975) deals with an immortal little girl who has spent the past twenty-four hundred and thirty-three years (give or take a decade) as a prepubescent child.
Harlan Ellison's "Shatterday" (Gallery, September 1975) explores primal fears as a man fights for his life against his own doppelganger.
Craig Strete, talented writer of Cherokee descent, gives us another of his Native American-themed stories with "Time Deer" (Worlds of If, November-December, 1974). In this sensitive and elegiac story, an elderly man takes some time to commune with nature before his son places him in a nursing home. (Off point: Does anyone else prefer the Canadian term "first nations" to "Native American"?)
Rounding off this volume are two original essays on the state of science fiction: "1975: The Year in Science Fiction, or Let's Hear It for the Decline and Fall of the Science Fiction Empire!" by Peter Nicholls and "Potential and Actuality in Science Fiction" by Vonda N. McIntyre.
All in all, Nebula Award Stories Eleven is an excellent and varied collection of memorable tales. I truly can't pick a favorite. More to the point, I truly can't pick a least favorite.