You may not have ever heard of the Nebula Awards, but you probably have heard of the Oscars.
The Nebula Awards are pretty much the same thing, but for science fiction writers instead of movie stars. And BYU alumna Nancy Fulda has been nominated for one. Her piece, “Movement: A Short Story about Autism in the Future,” tells the story of Hannah, a highly gifted teenager who is unable to communicate verbally. When her parents look in to a life-changing treatment, Hannah’s life is turned upside down.
Fulda, whose son is autistic, says that “Movement” was inspired by working with his unique abilities.
"‘Movement’ grew out of my efforts to comprehend a mental architecture that was utterly foreign to me, and from my son’s tender and diligent attempts to do the same,” she says. “The experience of trying to think differently, and of learning to respect my son's interpretation of the world as valid, enabled me to find a literary voice for Hannah and for her unique perception of time.”
However, using autism as a character trait wasn’t a conscious decision, it was just something she can relate to. “I was playing around with ideas about time and needed a focal point. Somewhere during the third or fourth revision, I realized that I needed a very unusual protagonist to discuss these ideas. I needed someone who doesn't see the world the same way most people do. Autism was on my mind at the time, so it was perhaps inevitable that the fictional condition I created for Hannah looks and feels very much like autism.”
As a member of the Church, Fulda says it’s easy for her faith to reflect in her writing. “It's my personal belief that authors can't help injecting their world view into their work," she said. "It's a subconscious process. We write what we see, we write what we experience; how can we not also write what we believe?”
She even includes gospel themes such as agency and eternal progression in her story, although the reader will have to pay attention. “More than anything else, Hannah desires to fill the measure of her potential, and find joy.”
Because being nominated for a Nebula Award is such an honor, Fulda was thrilled when she found out. It was totally unexpected, though, since the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America traditionally notifies Nebula finalists personally, and though the announcement of this year's nominees was approaching, she hadn't received a phone call.
“Imagine my joy when I got home from my son's karate class and found an answering machine message from my dear friend, telling me that ‘Movement’ had been nominated for the category of Best Short Story," she said. "I tend to bounce through the house, quite literally, whenever something good happens with my writing. In this case, I believe I bounced for a solid hour!”
Fulda has won various science fiction awards in the past, including the Phobos Award, the Vera Hinckley Mayhew Award and the Jim Baen Memorial Award. However, she isn’t stopping there. “Well, a Hugo nomination would be a nice addition to the collection. The Nebula and Hugo Awards are the two major milestones for science fiction and fantasy, roughly equivalent to the Oscars for film. Someday I'd also love to be nominated for a Whitney Award, but since they don't have a short fiction category, I guess I'll have to write a few novels first!”
The 47th Annual Nebula Awards will take place in Arlington, VA, May 17-20, and is put on by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. To read “Movement,” check out nancyfulda.com.