If two stories make a trend, and in this case I think they do, then this latest Nebula nominee from Henry Lien marks him as writer of comedies of manners. I didn't think last year's nominated story was too successful--The Ladies' Aquatic Gardening Society, noiminated for a Nebula in the Novelette category, is somewhat more so.
The setting is Gilded Age America, and the height of Newport NJ society is to sit near Mrs. Vanderbilt at her parties. Mrs. Honoria Orrington Howland-Thorpe has made progress, getting just four seats away, when her world is upended by Mrs. Cecelia Contarini Fleming, a fabulously accomplished woman. There ensue several skirmishes over garden quality, women's suffrage and environmental topics that come to an end in a very big way.
As I said I like this one reasonably well. The subjects of the parody are familiar and Lien hits the notes pretty well. My own thinking is that we are living in a new Gilded Age, which means we need reminding of what the first one was like and why we might want to head it off. Not that this is Lien's point--if any, it's more about the environment.
Mr. Lien is getting a lot of encouragement--I think if he keeps working at these he'll refine a ironic style worthy of some note. Read this for what it could be. 3 stars.