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Powerful shorter-than-novel fiction piece about a human colony living in an uneasy incorporation into an alien society, and the relationships of two collaborators and two separatists. Some stuff here about slow change vs burning things to the ground that really packs a punch here in the age of the destruction of the American government. I am mildly unsure of the length of this story - Asimov's called it a novelette in their table of contents, but Locus listed it with the novellas - but I'm inclined to assume Locus can count, and nominate it as a novella. Not sure though whether I'm replacing Every Heart a Doorway, which I wasn't that enthusiastic about, or Last Days of New Paris, which I'm pretty sure is too long to qualify (Locus called it a novel, so if we're going by Locus...).
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
One Half from the East is a middle-grade novel by Nadia Hashimi, an American child of parents from Afghanistan, set in contemporary Afghanistan, about a ten-year-old girl whose family decides to make her a bacha posh, a girl who is temporarily dressed as a boy so that the family will have a son. I've been obsessed with gender-disguise narratives my whole life (well, gender narratives more generally, gender-choice and transition and so forth, but as a kid in the 80s and 90s, what you got was mostly girls who wanted to wear pants so they could do stuff), so obviously I was going to read this. And it was very interesting! It wasn't clear from the book whether Hashimi had, like, interviewed people, or was working from secondhand sources, or just using her imagination - it turns out there's a companion novel for adults, following one of the other characters, which I'm hoping might have more extensive author's notes or a bibliography - anyways, it's hard to say how much of the story is an American sensibility of what this kind of gender situation would feel like, or how much is authentically Afghan, but it felt plausible and nuanced to me as an American reader. I actually thought the strongest part emotionally were the parallels between the protagonist and her father, who recently lost a leg in a terrorist attack, who are both struggling to accept the changes in their lives. Anyways, I thought it was very well-written, and interesting both for telling me about a real-world practice I didn't know about, and as a realistic-fiction contrast to the gender-adventure genre.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
So rap group Clipping. offered free downloads of their album Splendor & Misery for Hugo nominators, suggesting it was eligible for Best Dramatic Short. I know very little about rap, but not having much to nominate there, I figured there was no downside to listening, and OH MY GOD. I have this vague memory of the first time I was working my way through the early Rush discography, 2112 and the Cygnus X-1 songs, laying there completely caught up in it, and, like, narrative audio IS NOT MY THING 90% of the time, but, man, the other 10%. SPACE SCIENCE FICTION IN MY EARS, I don't know, this has gotten very capslocky, but the whole idea that you can couple pushing the boundaries of music with telling a spec-fic story, it's such a powerful synergy. There's pretty obviously a lot going on in Splendor & Misery that I don't understand - it's extremely reference-dense, the kind of literary poem puzzle someone who knows what the fuck they're talking about can dissect for pages - but even the bits I can get, slavery narratives/songs plus hip-hop as a specifically Black genre plus a delightful blender of science fiction references, it's clever and fascinating and *different* and, yes, absolutely nominating it.

ETA: let me know if you want the download link, I'll share it with anyone else who's nominating this year.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
See them here!

Novel:
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
Borderline, Mishell Baker
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
Ninefox Gambit,Yoon Ha Lee
Everfair, Nisi Shawl
I've read four of these and haven't even heard of Borderline. Birds and Ninefox are on my Hugo list, Obelisk and Everfair certainly seem like plausible choices, if not in my personal sweet spot of entertainingness.

Novella
Runtime, S.B. Divya (Tor.com Publishing)
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Liar”, John P. Murphy (F&SF)
A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)
So, Tor's novella line is doing pretty well, eh? I liked "Dream-Quest" and "Taste of Honey" a lot and am not at all surprised to see "Every Heart" here too. I might put "Runtime" on my to-read list.

Novelette
“The Long Fall Up”, William Ledbetter (F&SF)
“Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea”, Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
“Red in Tooth and Cog”, Cat Rambo (F&SF)
“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories”, Jason Sanford (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
The Jewel and Her Lapidary, Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing)
“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, Alyssa Wong (Uncanny)
"Sooner or Later" is the only one of these in my Hugo noms - I thought "You'll Surely Drown Here" had its moments but didn't quite pull it off for me, and I haven't read the rest. (I feel like I like Cat Rambo in general, maybe?)

Short Story
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, Brooke Bolander (Uncanny)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood)
“Sabbath Wine”, Barbara Krasnoff (Clockwork Phoenix 5)
“Things With Beards”, Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld)
“This Is Not a Wardrobe Door”, A. Merc Rustad (Fireside Magazine)
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, Alyssa Wong (Tor.com)
“Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station│Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed)
"Things With Beards" prediction fulfilled! I liked "Seasons" too. I must have read "Talons" but I can't remember it, do remember "Welcome" but thought it was more gimmick than story. I'm disappointed to not see "Between Dragons and Their Wrath" on this ballot, it was the other standout story of the year for me (with "Things").

Bradbury
Arrival
Doctor Strange
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Westworld: ‘‘The Bicameral Mind’’
Zootopia
I read this list and immediately went and replaced Star Trek on my Hugo noms with Kubo.

Norton
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill
The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi
The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge
Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine
Railhead, Philip Reeve
Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar
The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman
How am I always so clueless about the Norton nominees? Whatever happened to my being in the YA sff loop? Well, "Girl" was already on my to-reads from the Newberys, I guess I can add a few more.
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Everfair has a dynamite elevator pitch: British Fabians team up with black American missionaries to purchase a big chunk of the Belgian Congo from Leopold and make it a safe haven for Africans being enslaved for the rubber trade, steampunk alternate history ensues! Lesbian motorcycle guerrillas! Dirigibles running on the power of one tribe's "sacred earths", that is, nuclear power! Nifty mechanical prosthetic hands for everyone whose hands the Belgians chopped off! But it is kind of weird in the whole aspect of a book where there is tension and resolution, or expectation and satisfaction of it. It feels a little uncomfortable to criticize the writing of someone who's best known for teaching writing ("Writing the Other"), but the best way I can explain it is that reading this book was sort of like walking past a series of dioramas, and sometimes what was in them was really cool, but you never really had any idea what might be in the next one. Not unenjoyable - I read it to the end - but not my personal taste in stories, either. (I like a more immersive reading experience where I know more about the characters' hopes/goals/intentions and can feel their story along with them.) The book is sharpest and clearest about how race and nationality shape everyone's interactions - I foresee its future on various syllabuses. (You could teach it with Years of Rice and Salt, you could teach it with Westerfeld's Leviathan, you could teach it with Jo Walton's Just City and with Butler's Earthseed books maybe, I hardly remember those but I think so.)
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Novella by Kij Johnson. This was so good, I picked it up from the library today and pretty much couldn't put it down. I have not read the Lovecraft novella it's based on (Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath) but have read enough Lovecraft to feel like I had the general literary context if not specifics? I've been a Johnson fan for awhile ("Man Who Bridged The Mist", "Ponies"), this novella combines great writing (if you like the descriptive fantasy sort of thing) with a killer denouement. Immediate addition to my Hugo nominations.
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Probably at least one more followup after this with more artists and possibly more novellas, I have a couple of candidates on request with the library.

Behind the cut if you would rather not be influenced or whatever. Read more... )
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Last ones! Post to follow w/my nominees and some runners up.

A Wrinkle Ironed Out, Alison Wilgus, DailySF. A trolley problem and a pointed character study in a small space.

That Game We Played During the War, Carrie Vaughn, Tor.com. Telepaths vs non-telepaths. I need a novel about these people immediately, I ship them like whoa.

The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight, E. Lily Yu, Uncanny. A fairytale.

Foxfire, Foxfire, Yoon Ha Lee, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Shapeshifters and steampunk, excellent. *NOVELETTE

Standing on the Floodbanks, Bogi Takács, GigaNotoSaurus. Apprentice magician. *NOVELETTE
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Between Dragons and Their Wrath, An Owomoyela and Rachel Swirsky. Wow, amazing, hard-hitting story about the aftermath of war and life as a refugee child. That's a major team-up of authors there and it delivers, dang.

VARIOUS

Razorback, Ursula Vernon, Apex. A folktale oddly sweet for its tragedy level.

Kid Dark Against The Machine, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Book Smugglers. What if there was a machine that made superheroes.

A Deeper Green, Samantha Murray, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Mind control, justice, and healing.

A Salvaging of Ghosts, Aliette de Bodard, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. More diving!

Seasons of Glass and Iron, Amal El-Mohtar, Uncanny. Powerful fairytale remix.

Little Widow, Maria Dahvana Headley, Nightmare. This might have one too many ideas in it but they're pretty badass ideas.

The Tomato Thief, Ursula Vernon, Apex. A sequel to "Jackalope Wives". *NOVELETTE

Successor, Usurper, Replacement, Alice Sola Kim, Buzzfeed. On the literary edge of sff; the punch of this one hardly depends on the speculative element? But dang does it punch.

Shadow's Weave, Yoon Ha Lee, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Magic knitting and an igloo.

Webs, Mary Anne Mohanraj, was in Asimov's. In the same universe as Plea.

u wont remember dying, Russell Nichols, Motherboard. Uses textspeak vernacular to good effect.
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Left Behind, Cat Rambo. Topics that often interest me (uploads, eldercare), put together in an interesting way.

Touring with the Alien, Carolyn Ives Gilman. Interesting first contact story.

Coyote Invents the Land of the Dead, Kij Johnson. Interesting creation myth with interesting language. Apparently I've forgotten every word for describing fiction but "interesting". Gah.
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I don't think I'm going to make it to Uncanny, alas. I'll try to finish Clarkesworld at least. I feel okay about that? Like, sure, could have done more if I started earlier, but three magazines isn't bad!

Teenagers from Outer Space, Dale Bailey. A story about immigration. *NOVELETTE

And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices, Margaret Ronald. I like SETI stories and not-quite-contact stories.

Things With Beards, Sam J. Miller. Ohhh my god. So in the genre of The Thing fanfic, Peter Watts wrote one a few years ago that got nominated, and now there's this, which looks at The Thing through a very period-specific lens of AIDS and activism and queerness. Prediction: this one makes the Nebula ballot.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
No short fiction recs tonight, sorry, maybe tomorrow, although we're having another snow day so who knows.

I've been thinking a lot about hypocrisy, the "you were fine when Obama did it" retort pro-deportation people keep bringing up, and complacency, Andrew Sullivan writing about how in a stable democracy, you can safely ignore the news, but that "you" really only ever applied to white dudes and affluent white women. And, like, it's true! I didn't protest Obama's ICE raids (or drone strikes - honestly I was more aware and concerned about the drone strikes, not that I ever did anything about them), and my political activity was pretty much just voting/charitable donations/signing online petitions/occasionally writing letters to a rep or governor or something. I went to two protests in 16 years. And I don't mean to defend any of that, I guess I just find it interesting to think about having turned the corner into This Is A Crisis, Oh Shit mode (which for me was I guess some time in Sept/Oct, whenever it was I started volunteering for Hillary?), not in a regretful way either, just, I don't know, here in my lj I get to navel-gaze about what is feeling right now like a significant life change, that "how is the resistance doing" is now like this central and crucial thing.

Read more... )
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(You haven't missed anything, I'm just going backwards in time on this one instead of forward.)

Of Sight, of Mind, of Heart, Samantha Murray. Mother of a soldier.

Western Heaven, Chen Hongyu, trans. Andy Dudak. I don't even have the right cultural references for this and I still enjoyed the heck out of it. *NOVELETTE

Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home, Genevieve Valentine. I wasn't sure about this one for awhile but I think I like where it ended up. *NOVELETTE

Rusties, Nnedi Okorafor and Wanuri Kahiu. Interesting stuff here about how violence starts.

The Despoilers, Jack Skillingstead. Compelling premise but ends in a weird place?

The Green Man Cometh, Rich Larson. Fast-moving action-adventure of the "citizen drawn into police/spy events, uses their own special talents to get through" sort, with neat special talents.*NOVELETTE
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Thus concludes a second magazine! My goal is to finish Clarkesworld and Uncanny by next Saturday and call it a year for short fiction, maybe one more post of miscellany or things from the Locus list from other magazines that looked interesting.

Applied Cenotaphics in the Long, Long Longitudes, Vajra Chandrasekera. Posthumans, art, and decolonization in this interesting story.

The Witch's Knives, Margaret Ronald. Beauty and the Beast retell/subversion.

A Spell to Retrieve Your Lover from the Bottom of the Sea, Ada Hoffmann. Powerful metaphor-allegory thingy, dang.

The Wreck at Goat's Head, Alexandra Manglis. Poignant, and simple, and vivid, and, I don't know, this is the third diving story to really speak to me, apparently diving is a thing for me? In the way that, say, circus stories, are not? I like the art, too. Susie Oh.

The Dancer on the Stairs, Sarah Tolmie. Mannerpunk plus kind of a portal fantasy? (Mannerpunk being the subgenre that's into imaginary etiquette and rituals.) If you like Goblin Emperor or Ursula LeGuin writing about sedoretu you might really like this; I did. *NOVELETTE

Das Steingeschöpf, G.V. Anderson. Fantasy artisans in an all too real Germany between the wars.

Esmeralda, Tamara Romero. I was totally able to read this and understand it! There were words/phrases I didn't know, but could guess at from context, and when I read the translation I basically had everything right! Go go reading comprehension! That said, a) it took foreeeever and so I'm just going to read the other Spanish stories in translation, b) I don't "get" this story, like, I know what it says, but it didn't make any more narrative sense to me in English than it had in Spanish. So I'm not actually reccing it, I just wanted to brag about Duolingo apparently actually having revived my high school Spanish to the point where I can read a not-complicated short story.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R., Benjamin C. Kinney. Fun dialogue conceit.

Water, Birch, and Blood, O Horvath and Sara Norja. Always rec portal fantasy stories.

Gorse Daughter, Sparrow Son, Alena Indigo Anne Sullivan. A nice Sleeping Beauty retell/subversion. *NOVELETTE
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Conjure Man, Stefon Mears. Magic vs demon, classic-feeling story.

The Opening of the Bayou Saint John, Shawn Scarber. I am predictable but waah.

*Into the Wreck, June Oldfather. Vivid, original, amazing.

The Right Sort of Monsters, Kelly Sandoval. When I was pregnant, I had a dream where my child was two robots, a sea serpent, and a black nano cloud, this speaks to me.

This Is a Letter to My Son, KJ Kabza. Warning, giant tearjerker.

We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You?, Rebecca Ann Jordan. Nicely alien alien who is also a socially-rejected teen.
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Thus concludes recommendations from Lightspeed! Up next, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, or Uncanny or something, I haven't decided yet.

The Cavern of the Screaming Eye, Jeremiah Tolbert. Dungeon-crawling teens! I'm a huge sucker for this sort of thing. Tolbert really seems to have my number. *NOVELETTE

Fade To Red: Three Interviews About Sebold's Mars Trilogy, Stephen S. Power. Started slow then ka-wow. Really satisfying when something isn't just a gimmick but the exact way the story needs to be told.

Plea, Mary Anne Mohanraj. I read this when it came out and it was devastating then and it's devastating now.

The Venus Effect, Joseph Allen Hill. "Topical" stories - stories that engage the news, that try to grapple directly with big contemporary movements and issues - are so interesting to me. Like, there are various virtues that make me want to rec stories - Fun, Clever, Well-Crafted, Emotionally Moving, Important - and a decent topical story will pretty much always strike me as Important? (Which is not to say this one isn't also any of those others.) I dunno, I know some people think stories are always weaker if they're entangled so heavily with the context of their time, and I admit I'm personally pretty revolted by topical stories from "the other side", Puppy-nominated garbage arguing for America uber alles, etc. But I don't think sff is stronger if it sticks its head in a bag and *doesn't* engage. Anyways, blah blah, topicality is maybe most powerful when you don't expect it, maybe I have already said too much. *NOVELETTE
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The One Who Isn't, Ted Kosmatka. I like the way this one unfolded.

5x5, Jilly Dreadful. Teen geniuses at science camp.

Taste the Singularity at the Food Truck Circus, Jeremiah Tolbert. Wheee, cyberpunk food! Except I don't mean cyberpunk, I mean whatever we call the fun anticorporate futurism now. There are two kinds of stories like this, ones where it stays fun and ones with an unpleasant gotcha. I would like you to know that this one stays fun and you can safely enjoy it. * NOVELETTE

The Siren Son, Tristina Wright. Fairytale teen romance.

Unauthorized Access, An Owomoyela. Secretly a character piece dressed up like a data heist. *NOVELETTE

The Wilderness Within, Tim Pratt. Fun magical realism scenario, possibly a reprint though.

Also this fine NOVELLA, not from Lightspeed! Kai Ashante Wilson's A Taste Of Honey is from the same universe as his novella last year, Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. I loved Sorcerer; Taste isn't *quite* as powerful, but I'm still so in love with this world and with Wilson's writing, the mix of "high" and "low" language and the distinctive voices he gives characters. I would maybe read Sorcerer first for maximum impact but definitely recommend Taste, and if you don't have time to read them both and are looking for 2016 novellas, I think it would still stand alone just fine.
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A lot of good stuff in the "People of Color Destroy Science Fiction" special issue! Can we nominate Nalo Hopkinson and Kristine Ong Muslim as editors? (Short form, I guess?)

A Good Home, Karin Lowachee. About veterans, and PTSD, and who is a person.

Hiranyagarbha, Kevin Jared Hosein. Gold, corruption.

The Red Thread, Sofia Samatar. There's always so much in a Samatar story. This one is after-the-collapse, but so much more.
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I'll do a favorites list around the end of the month.

Dragon Brides, Nghi Vo. Dragons and their gold.

The Birth Will Take Place on a Mutually Acceptable Research Vessel, Matthew Bailey. A birth story.

Three Points Masculine, An Owomoyela. Genderfuckery milSF, yes please.

North Over Empty Space, Tim Pratt. I always enjoy interesting powers.

Wednesday's Story, Wole Talabi. Interesting meta-narrative about storytelling.

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