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I think this will be the last one, because quite frankly I think I have reached the limit of the amount of short fiction I am willing to seek out of my own accord. (If there are other stories you really think I should read, that might be different.) But there are a bunch of interesting stories that I wanted to tell you guys about!

These are in order of most liked to least (within categories), and I have put an asterisk next to ones that are currently on my ballot.


*The Citadel of Weeping Pearls (Aliette de Bodard) (available if you are nominating for the Hugo by contacting the author here) - oh! Yeah. This one's great. Interesting non-white-male worldbuilding/characters with what I thought was a satisfying arc, although I could totally see others differing on that.

*Quarter Days (Iona Sharma) - Fantasy (magic Britain with trains). I really liked this one, and I liked Sharma's short story set in the same universe even more — I liked that it was first about characters and second about solving a puzzle, with the worldbuilding something to be untangled as the characters went along.

*The New Mother (Eugene Fischer) - This is near-future SF with interesting ideas. I liked the journalistic bits a lot.


*Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan, Ian McDonald (in Old Venus) - Apparently this has been recced around everywhere, and I finally got it from the library, and it is in fact extremely good writing and a really interesting story that takes the tropes of old Venusian pulp and refashions them into something rich and strange. Definitely up there as Hugo-worthy.

*So Much Cooking (Naomi Kritzer) - Awwwww, this is a super cute and also kind of heartbreaking but also heartwarming story. Food blog during an epidemic.

"Another Word for World" (Ann Leckie) (Future Visions) - I mean, Leckie is a wonderful writer, and this story about two very different women who have to communicate over a language barrier is no exception. But I did feel that the resolution of the story was something that should have occurred to anyone who had ever studied a second language and not be this huge surprise to all the characters.

"Machine Learning" (Nancy Kress) (Future Visions) - So, like, there's this emotional story in here that is probably pretty good, and then there's this near-future machine learning stuff that… I just… okay, see, I know a little about the field from work and I kept saying, but… but it doesn't really work like that… people don't actually think about it like that… and it drove me batty. This is not a rec; if anything it's an anti-rec; I just had to rant about it.

Short Stories

*Game of Smash and Recovery (Kelly Link) - Families? Sort of. Kelly Link, anyway. So, this is a really interesting story, and the more I think about it the more I like it.

*"Hello, Hello" (Seanan McGuire) (Future Visions) - Have I mentioned I am a sucker for stories about families? I am a sucker for stories about families, especially parents and children, and this is a cheerful story about a family and machine learning and I found the family really well done, and I just really liked it.

*Nine Thousand Hours (Iona Sharma) - Set in the same universe as her novella above. I read this story and really didn't understand what was happening until the end, at which point I read the whole thing again. It's got to be good if you can get me to do that. I will warn you that not much actually happens in this story (the big action happens before the story). But it's still a cool story. I am definitely nominating Sharma for the Campbell, even if this gets knocked off my ballot.

Remembery Day (Sarah Pinsker) - About memory and war. I liked this a lot. Not on my ballot through lack of space.
cahn: (Default)
(There will probably be a part 3 someday.)

I'm going to start this off with a Yuletide rec, actually:

The Green Year (18000 words) by Selden
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Rating: Mature
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Lady Bertilak/Gawain/Bertilak de Hautdesert, Background Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere
Characters: Gawain (Arthurian), Bertilak de Hautdesert, Lady Bertilak, Morgan le Fay, Morgause (Arthurian), Gareth (Arthurian)
Additional Tags: Brief instance of parent-on-child violence, dubcon, Gore, (Mis)use of the backstory of a Catholic saint, Period-Typical Sexism, Period-Typical Homophobia, Gratuitous severed heads

Learn to love, and leave all other.

Or: Lady Bertilak offers Gawain her body as well as her girdle. Here, he takes the first, but not the second.

Every year there are one or two fics at Yuletide that are so good that they get categorized into my brain as "one of the best things I've read this year," with no qualifier. This year it was this Gawain and the Green Knight fic, which besides commenting on and critiquing and changing the original is conversant with all kinds of other Arthurian bits and pieces, from Once and Future King to the Mabinogion romances.

This thing is freaking amazing. I mean, sure, I could be nitpicky about detail if I wanted, and I'm sure it would have been improved by a pass through professional editing (which is kind of a content-free statement in that I imagine it's true of most works unless your editor is Vox Day, but then again he doesn't hit my standard of "professional"), but whatever. It's probably the best novella I've read this year, and unless the author objects I'm totally gonna nominate this for the Hugo.

Other stories I really liked )

Stories I liked: )
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E. hates, hates to take baths. She will come up with any excuse she possibly can to avoid taking one. She will drag her feet. She will whine. Then, when she actually gets into the bath, she loves it and doesn't want to leave! Then -- usually only when I tell her she has to because it's bedtime -- she gets out of the bath and is instantly transformed back into Bath-Hating Kid.

So clearly this is a genetic trait, because this is exactly how I feel about reading short stories online. (Short stories in anthologies, on the other hand, are my jam. They're in a book, so it's like a book, but they are short, which is great for my infinitesimal attention span!) Whine! Grumble! ...oh, okay, fine, I quite enjoyed that.

FFA had some links to 2016-eligible stories (I think these all might be from January??) which I read. Here are some of my thoughts, and I want to hear yours too. (What I'd love is to have a sort of Hugo reading club to talk through potential nominations! I need someone else to collate a shortlist of stories because there's no way I'm wading through entire publications. If the FFA memers keep listing stories they like, I'll try to keep up with that, at least.)

Cat Pictures, Please (Naomi Kritzer) - This is a very cute story and I'm glad I read it, because cute. I do not consider it Hugo-worthy, and indeed rather reminds me of many of the nominees from last year: cute and fun to read, but fundamentally shallow: supercomputer tries to make individual people's lives better, because it has read about Asimov's First Law, where "better" turns out to be, arbitrarily, "what the computer thinks is better." Which could be spun as thoughtful (okay, if I were a supercomputer with access to all the data ever, my first thought would be to run really awesome and thorough studies correlating All the Things) or horrific (...a computer might well think the best use of my time was not to write all this crap on the interwebs), but ends up instead as a little didactic and a lot cute.

Folding Beijing (Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu) - Like Three-Body Problem, I was not really sure I liked it for the first half but was invested by the end. I'm still not convinced as to what I think about it. It's an ambitious SF-nal concept of time-sharing a city, but I'm not quite sure it sticks the landing... but I don't know whether that's cultural or not.

Pocosin (Ursula Vernon) - This story suffered in that I had read Jackalope Wives the previous week, and I enjoyed Jackalope Wives more; I think it richly deserves the Nebula (and that in the absence of Puppies would have rightfully won the Hugo, as it did the "Alfie"). This one is a good story, but I was suffering a bit from Vernon overload, I think; she has a distinctive voice where a little goes a long way. Her writing is excellent, in any case: "This is the place where the old god came to die. He came in the shape of the least of all creatures, a possum."

I also think I'm not the right reader for this story... I think there is a specific feeling she is getting at here that I don't have enough experience with to get, and I bet that if I really understood that feeling that I would be head-over-heels for this story.

Three Cups of Grief (Aliette de Bodard): I liked this a lot better than her last year's Alfie-nominee The Breath of War, which a lot of people liked but which I found sort of irritating. I'm glad I gave her another chance, because this story was great and right now it's on my shortlist to nominate. It's got a lot of rich worldbuilding and characters and emotions and a beautifully-understated plot, and now I'm on board to read her novel.

Cloth Mother (Sarah Pauling): Now this story pushed all my buttons, to the extent that I am aware that I am probably not an unbiased reader when I say I really, really loved this story and will be nominating it for sure. It's SF! It has a plot! And at the same time it has things to say about what kids need, and what parenting means, it has an arc, and I teared up a little at the penultimate scene. I'm not 100% sure about the ending, but gosh, I still just really loved this story. I'm willing to believe other people might not love it nearly as much, though.

Back to grumbling about having to read stories. *grumble*


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