The 2014 (I know, I know, but that’s what they call it) Nebula Awards

The Nebula awards are, inexplicably, titled after the year when all the works were published (in English1) rather than the year in which the ceremony happens (i.e. this year’s are the 2014 Nebula awards, despite 2015 being almost halfway over). I don’t approve of this.I do, however, generally approve of the Nebula awards.

1 or possibly in North America, I couldn’t really tell. In any event, Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem came out in China a few years ago, but is nominated this year.

The Nebula awards have always been (along with the Locus awards) my sort of go-to for figuring out what happened in any given year, sff-wise. Using the nominees as a booklist is something I did when I was younger, and generally they aren’t a total fiasco, awards-granting- wise. They also lack the weird popular-vote aspect of the Hugo awards2, which sometimes comes off as an up-with-people, everything is awesome positivity, but this year doesn’t (see FN2).

2 I haven’t much to say about the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies Hugo nomination-bloc scandal that hasn’t been said already and better by, say, John Scalzi, Connie Williis or George R.R. Martin. If you don’t know what it is: The Hugo ballot was vote-brigaded by a pretty awful group, and then an even more awful group piggybacked on that. None of this was cleared by most of the creators, and it created a huge problem with the Hugo system. It was a huge, award-breaking deal for most of the constituent fandom, and the Hugos have officially been declared the battleground for the puppies people* and it’s just a big ugly mess, which is a thing that doesn’t tend to happen to the Nebula awards, which is where we are now.
* I am unsure of how much the two groups – The Sad Puppies and The Rabid Puppies –
are coordinated, or how much they agree upon, but the elements of the platform they share is that they perceive that science fiction is getting away from its roots, and is overly-politicized, and they would like a return to the sorts of things that they like. For a discussion about what I think of politicization in science fiction, and as much history as I can tell, buy me a drink sometime. This footnote is already plenty long enough.

There are some things that make the Nebula awards attractive both as a guide and to write about, but chief among them is that there are, like, seven awards, and they’re all pretty cut and dried in terms of what the categories mean (word counts, generally, with the exception of the Bradbury Award, which goes to a film, and the Norton Award, which goes to a Young Adult novel), if not precisely what they’re meant to contain.

This makes them easier to wade through. A note at the top, however. A special awad must be given out for our purposes. We’ll call it the There Are Only Seven Categories And I Can’t Really Skip One award for Mrs. Coach’s hair which, unlike many of these works, is never the wrong length, is always sufficiently filled out, and, while it doesn’t tackle complex interpersonal, scientific or social issues, is pretty classically enjoyable.

Onward, ho!

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Ah, the YA category. It’s hard for me to gauge, but I think we’re over the hump of the YA obsession. Oh, it’s still the biggest seller, and it will probably always be – it seems to have been paradigmatic, rather than just a trend. Although the last year continues to see a bunch of backlash3 and counter-argument. But while it’s still the case that I am disappointed when writers whose work I respect and enjoy feel they need to branch out into separate marketing categories, it becomes increasingly unsavory to continue yelling about the market-dominance of YA, for a couple of reasons. The first of these is that YA is dominated, both in terms of purchase and creation, by women, and yelling about how it’s “ruining” whatever any given article-writer thinks it’s ruining looks pretty uncomfortable in that light. The second is that there’s nothing wrong with young people reading, and they’re doing it more, and there’s every indication that when they stop being Young Adults and start being Old Adults, there’s every chance that a significant proportion of them will also read Old Adult books. That being said, I still find a lot of it samey and marketing-driven4, especially with regards to inter-character romance. Even bearing in mind that I have very little tolerance for the sort of hand-wringing-y tortured romance that proliferates among the subgroup, in one case (Alaya Dawn Johnson’s otherwise good Love is the Drug) the romance derails a perfectly-good conspiracy plot, in another (Sarah McCarry’s Dirty Wings) it prevents the plot from actually happening5, and, most  disappointingly, it derails Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unmade so badly that it ends up not so much capping off the series as largely failing to live up to the previous two books (which, while not without their rough spots, were at least better). Alexandra Duncan’s Salvage includes a love triangle, although it’s only a half-hearted one, which at least prevents it from taking over the story, which, additionally, is more interesting in premise than in execution. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, by YA titan A.S. King, isn’t brought down by its all-but-contractually-mandated romance, but is also built around the less-interesting part of its story6. Kate Milford’s excellent Greenglass House is about smugglers, roleplaying games and a story where nobody is telling the truth about who they are. It plays some of its cards too soon, but is otherwise a lovely journey. But the clear standout here is Leslye Walton’s The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, which, despite containing an entire truckload of romance, is handled capably, written beautiful, and is a fantastic piece of weird, funny magical realism7.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Leslye Walton, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

3 largely led by The New York Times, which has been blowing into this trumpet for at least the past half-decade.
4 there is a huge amount of tortured romances in these books, many of which are supernatural love triangles. We still live in a post-Twilight world, after all.
5 in Dirty Wings’ defense, it’s the Persephone story, so we all knew the plot anyway.
6 it has a high-concept framing device, whereby the titular character ends up seeing the future, the ensuing parts of which are pretty compelling post-Atwood, but also frustratingly brief.
7 it’s also worth noting that I have no idea what makes it a YA book, other than that’s obviously what the publisher said it was.

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
This is probably as good a slate as any, and could probably really stand up to some robust analysis and totally not being a fanboy about stuff. It’s a shame that’s not what’s about to happen, then. The Lego Movie is pretty great, much better than it needed to be, and makes me happy to live in the world. Unfortunately, it still loses.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Guardians of the Galaxy

Short Story
Eugie Foster’s “When it Ends, He Catches Her” continues my streak of not “getting it” when it comes to Eugie Foster. I’ll try again next time, Eugie. Usman T. Malik’s “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” has a bunch of pretty good ideas and some great images, but Mr. Malik forgot to tell us the story. Sarah Pinsker’s “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” Alyssa Wong’s “The Fisher Queen” and Matthew Kressel’s “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” are all fine, imaginative stories (about a prosthetic arm, a mermaid, and an alien superintelligence, respectively), that don’t quite make it over the winner line. Aliette de Bodard’s “The Breath of War” is the only story in this category that I wished was longer – there’s a pretty incredible piece of a world in there, and I’d love to read more stories, or a longer story, or anything more about the world and its people. Thus it seems weird to deny someone the rightful winnership because their story made me want more of it, but Ursula Vernon’s “Jackelope Wives” is perfectly-formed, exactly the right length, and really just a great piece of fiction.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ursula Vernon, “Jackelope Wives”

Novelette
This was by far the category most full of clunkers. The YA award had its problems, but at least the examples were good sui generis. Tom Crosshill’s “The Magician and Laplace’s Demon” is aiming for a breezy, possibly-funny tone (I think?) but is so bogged down in winks and references that it throws up a whole lot of barriers to actually reading it. Carmen Maria Machado’s “The Husband Stitch” seems to be going for a post-Kelly Link vibe, only all sexy and whatnot, but the erotica (which appears to be the point) distracts from the story (which barely exists), and the whole thing just seem kind of underdeveloped. “Sleep Walking Now and Then” is slight, if entertainingly-written. Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” is well-written, and even does a couple of interesting things, but is (like her YA entry, Love is the Drug) bogged down by an unmanageable romance plot. Kai Ashante Wilson’s “The Devil in America” is about a deal with the devil, and its toll, as taken through a particular black family, and also about what “family” means. It’s fine, but would have been better by either expanding its scope or narrowing it (and there’s some “meta” readers notes throughout that, while interesting, are also a better idea than they were an item)8. Sam J. Miller’s “We Are the Cloud” is about a future where poor people sell part of their brains off for computing power, and, as a story, manages to be challenging and surprising on top of its idea, which makes it the one unqualifiedly good piece that got nominated here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sam J. Miller, “We Are the Cloud”

8 In Kai Ashante Wilson’s defense (and he seems like a very good writer), this story is a piece of historical fantasy, a subgenre that I have almost no ability to get into (the lone exception I can think of is Octavia Butler’s Kindred, but everybody loves Octavia Butler’s Kindred). It’s probably better if your tastes run more toward that sort of thing,
Novella
This category, on the other hand, was an nigh-embarrassment of riches. Lawrence M. Schoen’s Calendrical Regression is another of his Amazing Conroy stories, which are all pretty fun, if not quite doing the same thing as some of the other works that were nominated9. Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine is a highly-entertaining horror story that kind of crashes into its own ending. Nancy Kress’ Yesterday’s Kin, on the other hand, is a genuinely suspenseful first-contact story with a hell of a rug-puller. The remaining three works, on the other hand, are each in a separate league. Mary Rickert’s The Mothers of Voorhissville10 is a sticky, intense horror story, and would be the winner for imagistic reasons (it also would have been the winner if I’d written this a couple of days earlier, that’s how close these top three are). Rachel Swirsky’s Grand Jete (The Great Leap) is about not only what it means to be a person, but what it means to be the actual, specific person that you are, and tackles the question through the lens of Jewish folklore, Pinocchio, and dance. Ken Liu’s The Regular looks at posthumanism11 as an average part of a day, and what it means to the humanity of the people that do it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rachel Swirsky, Grand Jete (The Great Leap), but only just. I genuinely thought that, by the end of the paragraph, it was going to be The Regular, but Swirsky’s story is so unlike anything else in the category that its singular-ness elevates it above the rest.

9 there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but since this is my piece, and I’m deciding the rightful winners, my taste is more important. So there.
10 The Nebula awards webpage is inconsistent in when, exactly, a novella gets quotation marks and when it is italicized. I have decided to italicize all of the novella titles, because that’s how I do.
11 can we take this moment to give thanks that we aren’t still living through the constant nightmare of every fucking thing being poorly-thought-through posthumanism? ?YA can dominate the charts forever as long as posthumanism is left only to the people that can actually fucking write it.

Novel
There were lots of good novels, and even a couple of great ones, but this one was pretty much a curb-stomping. Charles E. Gannon’s Trial By Fire is a throwbacky piece of sub-Heinlein alien work, about an old-style ubermensch (written as such to a near-cartoonish level12) who, through nothing more than his peerless intellect, perfect physical condition, impossible good looks and all the deuses he can stuff into a machina, manages to handle negotiations for the entry of Earth into a federation of planets. It’s the second book in a series. Jack McDevitt’s Coming Home is definitely a good time, and I’ll argue that making the main character in your long-running sf series an antique dealer is pretty inspired. It’s been inspired for him for something like eight billion books, though, and this one is ok, but is kind of interchangeable with the other ones in the series, which makes it hard to recommend for an award. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword is the follow-up to last year’s Nebula winner for best novel, Ancillary Justice. Ancillary Sword is ok, but isn’t of the same caliber as Ancillary Justice, and is probably nominated more on momentum than anything else. The third book, Ancillary Mercy, will almost certainly bounce back – being able to end the story will do wonders for it – but Ancillary Mercy seems like it spends too much time spinning its wheels. Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor features a great main character, a really impressively-built world, and a compelling “commoner-thrust-into-the-throne” plot. I don’t, as I’ve mentioned in this space before, read a lot of fantasy anymore, and usually the “steampunk” descriptor only exacerbates the problem, but The Goblin Emperor manages to dodge both of those things by remaining about the characters13 and the impressively-built world. Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation is, presumably, standing in for the entire Southern Reach trilogy, which is really one longer work split into three parts. As such, Annihilation doesn’t stand up as well as it does when re-integrated with its brother/sister works. Nevertheless, it’s of a very specific kind of biological sf14 that there isn’t a whole lot of, and VanderMeer’s mastery of tone, compelling narrative style, and ability to advance the plot given an extremely limited narratorial perspective are all truly impressive. In any other year, this would be a stand-out winner.

12 this was present on the Sad Puppies slate for Hugo nomination, but wasn’t nominated. That’s how throwbacky it is. It’s got a real Dances With Wolves/Avatar vibe, with a protagonist who’s Sherlock Holmes and Lazarus Long and James Bond, and every character will stop what they’re doing to tell you so. This is why it’s hard to take the people crying for a return to what they think of as the origins of the genre seriously.
13 specifically the main character, who is exactly the sort of low-key good guy (as opposed to the bright-color-black-outline Good Guy) that fantasy can do really well – contrasting the basic humanity of the goodness of a character who’s surrounding by, say, airships and elves and religious magic and stuff – but almost never does.
14 it’s the sort of thing I associate with Greg Bear’s Blood Music, which parts of Annihilation resemble a great deal, but this could also be the result of Blood Music being the first book of this flavor I ever read.

But I said this category was a curb-stomping, and I meant it. For all that The Goblin Emperor and The Southern Reach trilogy (and presumably the Ancillary trilogy) will hold up well for a long time and are welcome additions to the world, Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem is in a class all by itself. It’s about astrophysics, the limits of scientific observation, video games, China, post-communism, the duty of humans to other humans, and the limits of understanding, both literal and figurative. It’s lyrical, funny, and compellingly-told. There’s a lot of science in it that never leaves the audience behind, also without the book grinding to a halt for an exposition bomb. Translated wonderfully by Ken Liu15, who provides helpful translator’s notes when the language prevents a communication, or when it relies on something that requires specific knowledge of China, The Three-Body Problem is not only the best thing nominated for a Nebula award, it’s probably the best thing I’ll read all year. Go read it now, you’ll be a better person for it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem

15 the same Ken Liu who wrote the excellent The Regular in the novella category, and who wrote  the much-awarded all-time great “The Paper Menagerie” a few years ago.

This is Why We Can’t Talk About Nice Things

“I had this sneaking suspicion that Taylor Swift might be the dominant cultural theme of her generation and that I should listen to a song by her because I had never heard one…So I checked it out and it gave me the willies. It wasn’t a reactionary thing. It was more from just hearing these hack nu-country melodies with dumb lyrics and some very advanced Pro-Tools production techniques…I’m familiar with the fact that people who I count as intelligent are really into this woman’s records, and I don’t want to make this about Taylor Swift, I just generally have a more elemental take on things and I can’t hold up Taylor Swift as being either a figure of light or a figure of darkness because I feel like it brings down my poem to a level that’s too mundane”
-Dan Bejar, “Accidental Pop: A Conversation with Destroyer’s Dan Bejar”, pitchfork.com

So maybe you’re the sort of person that doesn’t read a bunch of response-y music reporting. That’s acceptable. It’s infuriating, and pretty difficult to keep up with, and often leaves you feeling like some people just aren’t happy without something to wring their hands about.

One of the latest in hand-wringing targets is the above statement (along with a couple of other ones) that Dan Bejar made in an interview with Pitchfork. In addition to the quote at the top of the page, he also suggests that he modified his music to not be likable in the way that Taylor Swift’s is likable, because the way Taylor Swift elicits feelings is beneath the way he does it. This is a somewhat-problematic statement1, for some pretty straightforward reasons: Dan Bejar is an indie dude, and Taylor Swift is a young woman pop star, and an indie dude saying that a young woman pop star is beneath his consideration, or whose work is something worth moving away from as an artist, is the oldest form of rockist nonsense, and speaks directly to the need for the anti-rockists in the first place. To wit: any music is, at least inherently, worth considering seriously in and of itself, it’s your reaction as the listener that renders it not so.

1 it’s also a kind-of problematic inference on my part, which is based on where my dogs fall in this race. My biases are stated thusly: I think that the “poptimism” argument was absolutely 100% necessary to get us out of the “rockism” corner that criticism spent its first four decades or so painting itself into. I think that the way it opened up the argument to people who were under-represented as both opinion-holders and viable demographics is absolutely great. I also think that pretending pop success is 1) a universal barometer of quality or 2) indicative of anything other than successful marketing is a good way to find yourself on the wrong side of most of what’s interesting in music, and that “poptimism” has, for people that care about such things, swung pretty far into using popularity as a metric for quality (i.e. Taylor Swift is artistically viable because she sells records), and, more germane here, pretty far against the indie-rock dude opinion being valid (i.e. Dan Bejar should shut up because his form isn’t in favor and also Taylor Swift sells records). If you’re unfamiliar with the vagaries of this argument, I will further point out that my third bias here is that I could read this argument all day, and that the way people respond to music vis-a-vis critical consensus and popularity is second only to actually listening to music itself on the list of ways I like to spend my free time.

The problem with most of the material comprising the response (i.e. Dan Bejar said Taylor Swift is beneath him and this is an affront) is that it leaves out the context for both Taylor Swift and Dan Bejar, albeit for different reasons. This is where the “poptimism” crowd tends to strike out: arguing that thinking a form is beneath you is somehow affrontery regardless of where it comes from for you, the speaker2 is leaving aside that if the reason you’re speaking in public (be it your job, hobby, or whatever) is that you make music, that there’s a likelihood that you’re pretty considered in your reaction to it. and that if you know what you’re doing you’re likely to also know what isn’t interesting to you.

2 no one would complain, for example, if Taylor Swift had said “I intentionally left songs off my album that sounded too much like Destroyer” because, to a poptimist, the more popular artist is, somehow, punching up at the less-popular artist. In the formulation of the argument against Dan Bejar, Dan Bejar is the oppressor and Taylor Swift is, once again, the underdog. As this is pretty much the strength of her entire marketing mien, this makes perfect sense to believe for the poptimists, even if it appears to be completely paint-chuggingly insane to anyone else.

A moment, then, to situate what I mean by “context”. Each of the artists involved in Mr. Bejar’s critique is well into a career3. Taylor Swift’s was a carefully-managed ascent involving entrenching in country music and using it as a launchpad to non-country pop music domination, and succeeded so wildly that she’s one of the only surefire record-sellers in an increasingly-fractured pop environment. Dan Bejar’s seems less wilfully-choreographed, but includes a flirtation with a pretty qualified kind of mainstream success, first with the release of Kaputt, and then as a member of The New Pornographers, neither of which he did much to shy away and/or distance himself from.

3 Destroyer started about twenty years ago, Taylor Swift’s first album came out ten years ago

These factors (the time spent in the industry, the relative success of each) mitigate why Dan Bejar is uninterested in considering Taylor Swift beyond the amount he already has, and it’s something that the poptimists generally fail to consider (and that the rockists dismissed outright): Dan Bejar probably likes music that sounds more like Dan Bejar than Taylor Swift. Dan Bejar has had twenty years to make the decision to sound like Taylor Swift and, as far as anyone can tell, has not taken that opportunity even once. So this time he announced outright that it was intentional. What is different about that?

That’s the thing about the “this music is more right than that music” argument that created the rockism problem in the first place. It presupposes that the only thing that prevents, say, Dan Bejar from sounding like, say, Taylor Swift is the prejudice against sounding like Taylor Swift that governs Dan Bejar. It’s something that permeates the very environment of the music conversation – that Dan Bejar’s opinion (the one the interviewer asked him for) is “boring” because, historically, it has been shared by people who have used similar opinions to dismiss huge and important swathes of music in the past.

Note, however, that the difference between Dan Bejar’s dismissal of Taylor Swift and the Rockists’ blanket-dismissals of pop music in general is that Bejar’s comes after he listens to it, and with some pretty specific sonic criticism4. We could probably read into it that he wasn’t disposed to like it, but that’s kind of a snipe hunt. He afforded it the respect it of treating it as an object worthy of his attention, he didn’t like it to the point where he actively avoided songs that sounded like it, he’s made another Destroyer record that isn’t a Taylor Swift record (this is the ninth time in a row a Destroyer record hasn’t been a Taylor Swift record, as it happens). Everyone should be pretty happy about this. But the poptimists seem to be unwilling. The poptimist reaction relies upon an intensely postmodern view of artistic output, which is that there is no such thing as an “artistic” impulse, that all creation is work, and that the goals of the work must be economic in either literal, monetary terms or in more-abstracted, garnering-attention senses. This is where the whole thing falls apart: what’s the point of assuming that a musician is making music for non-musical reasons?

4 I agree about the Pro Tools thing, I would argue with him about the nu-county-ness* of the melodies, and I don’t know the words to any songs, let alone Taylor Swift songs, so I’ll leave the lyrical analysis up to the people to whom it’s important.
* Nu-country here is referring to the sort of pop-country that Taylor Swift was part of the architecture for – think the biggest sorts of radio-country hits of the last decade or so.

In the piece that ran on Deadspin (well, Deadspin’s culture kinja-ette, which, who even knows?) above, Rob Harvilla5 argues that “most indie types that make a big show of refusing to make vapid, catchy, enjoyable pop music want you to think they can, but nobly choose not to, when the truth is, they just can’t”. This is exactly Bejar’s argument inverted6: Bejar can’t possibly feel negatively about an approach that isn’t his because the only reason he would mention it (he was, once again, asked) is because he tried and failed to have that approach himself (if you all take the time to picture Dan Bejar in one of Taylor Swift’s metallic awards-show getups, you’ll all be happier for it, I promise). What if he didn’t? What Bejar isn’t warning about sour grapes, but instead about not liking, say, the overblown production or the melodies or the lyrics, like he says he doesn’t?

5 a writer I generally like quite a bit, but who does rather err on the side of “all music should be pop music”, an argument that is alarmingly common among critics I like.
6 it’s also the reason that I highlighted Harvilla’s response above the other ones – it’s both indicative and makes the logical conclusions which, in its defense, at least show that Harvilla’s thought the thing all the way through, even if he then proceeds to entrench behind this weird fortification.

Poptimism was important (and, probably, inevitable in the post everyone-has-a-voice internet) – it brought people around to the idea that you couldn’t just declare one kind of music “the best” and be done with it. Perhaps it’s inevitable that it does the same thing. These stormclouds have been gathering for a long time, but saying “pop music is a valid artistic expression that is meaningful and valid to the performers and audience even if the established critical consensus doesn’t think so” is a pretty far cry from saying “Dan Bejar would write Taylor Swift albums if only he could.”

There isn’t an objective standard for these things. I would rather everybody that makes records make them because they think the record they’re making is the best record they can make, and if that means they don’t want it to sound like something specific, that’s pretty cool. And if they don’t want, necessarily, to cause a certain reaction (Dan Bejar mentions specifically that he would like it if you didn’t come away from this record whistling the songs, which is really specific, Quixotic and kind of weird all at once), then why not? Aren’t we supposed to like this stuff because we’re communicating with the people making the record? Isn’t it possible to communicate that kind of thing also? Isn’t situating yourself as someone who is only interested in records that are made to maximize their passive likability cutting yourself off from things in exactly the same way that the rockists were cutting themselves off from pop music, or hip-hop, or country, or whatever by demanding that all music meet their own rigid criteria for “goodness”? Furthermore isn’t agreeing that Taylor Swift is the perennially-put-upon underdog and Dan Bejar part of the anti-Taylor machine just taking Taylor Swift’s metamusical mission at face value in favor of Destroyer’s?

This argument clearly doesn’t have a reasonable end. It’s entirely likely that instead of poptimism replacing rockism, it created a pendulum that is forever doomed to swing back and forth. Arguing against any given point on the pendulum, then, is creating the further momentum for it to continue it’s back-and-forth journey. So why agree to the pendulum in the first place? The way to win this game is not to play it. Not letting Dan Bejar’s opinion of Taylor Swift (which clearly and admittedly affected his own record) matter w/r/t Taylor Swift’s record7 is letting Dan Bejar make the record for his own reasons, whatever they are, and that’s a much better world to live in than the one where everyone is expected to strive to write “Shake it Off.”

7 for what it’s worth: Dan Bejar bats about .333 with me. He’s made nine records, I really like three of them. There is no Taylor Swift record that succeeds entirely with me, but there are songs that I think are better than Dan Bejar’s managed in a slow walk – “Picture to Burn,” “Love Story,” “Trouble,” “Out of the Woods” – but I share Bejar’s exhaustion with the production, and think that Taylor’s melodic sense seems kind of facile because 1) she came up as part of a genre – radio country – that has a lot of “rules” about what it sounds like and 2) she doesn’t have a lot of vocal range, which makes her melodic palette somewhat narrower than it would be if she had more notes to work with. Dan Bejar doesn’t have a lot of range either, but gets around the melodic limitations by writing music that is significantly less melodic. We’ll all make Dan Bejar happy by not whistling his songs, because I’m pretty sure you couldn’t whistle them even if you tried.