“Sanctuary”

mabfan‘s excellent novella, “Sanctuary” (ANALOG, September 2005) has made it onto the preliminary Nebula Award ballot in the category of best novella. It has been well over a year since I read the story and so I decided I would re-read it on the train into work this morning.

I have been commuting on the Washington Metro (subway) for well over 4 years and I have never missed my stop. Regular commuters understand this. Even if you are not consciously paying attention, you “know” where you are and when you are supposed to get off the train. Because of Michael’s story, however, I came closer to missing my stop today than ever before.

In the mornings, the Yellow line now stops at my metro stop, meaning I can take a single train all the way into work. When I got on the train this morning, I sat down in my usual seat, pulled out my copy of ANALOG, and started to re-read “Sanctuary”. I had forgotten how good the story really was and I was immediately engrossed in it. In some ways, it reminds me very much of an Isaac Asimov story because there is a lot of dialog and action is secondary. (I say this as a compliment, as anyone who knows me knows that Isaac Asimov is my favorite writer. Many of my stories are like that too.) So here I was reading about this alien who had requested sanctuary in a Catholic chapel on a space station. I forgot I was on a train. I forgot that I was on Earth. It felt as though I were in that chapel, watching the events unfold.

About one third of the way through the story, as I was finishing up a scene, a bunch of people were getting off the train. I didn’t think anything of it, until I heard the conductor saying, “…next station, Crystal City.” This was my stop! I managed to get off the train before the doors closed, but it was a close call. I cannot remember the last time that I was so engrossed by a story that even my subconscious stopped paying attention to my surroundings that much. I think it is a good sign for Michael’s story, as far as the nomination (and even the award goes).

Four stories made the preliminary cut and I have read two of them. I also read, and really enjoyed shunn‘s novella in the April/May 2006 ASIMOV’S, “Inclination”. At this point, I am torn as to which I like better. I still need to re-read “Inclination”. (I posted my initial response to the story here. And I need to read the other two stories.) But I have to say that I think Michael’s story has a slight edge so far. And for those interested in some odd coincidences, here are some interesting ones about these two stories and their respective authors:

  • Both stories are centered around religious themes
  • Both stories use single-word titles
  • Both stories take place on space stations
  • Both authors are long-time LJers
  • mabfan has blogged extensively on Jewish themes; shunn has blogged frequently on Mormonism
  • Both authors have been nominated for Nebula awards before, but neither has won

Incidentally, if you are interested, a portion of “Sanctuary” is currently available on ANALOG’s website. You can find it here. Many of Michael’s stories are also available on Fictionwise. Check out his fiction page for more information and links.

Dilemma: at this point, I want to just close my office door and finish reading “Sanctuary”. But I have a busy morning and I don’t think I can do it. I would ordinarily do it at lunch, but I am having lunch with someone today. So I won’t be able to finish it until later this afternoon. But if I don’t try and finish it now, I know that I will be thinking about the story all day and that will throw off my concentration. Gee, thanks a lot, mabfan!