I’m not a huge short-fiction reader. It is hard to do short fiction right — when it works it is magic and the rest of the time, not so much
This year’s nominees range from couldn’t-get-through to decent.
“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright ☆☆☆☆☆
This story can be categorized as either fable or allegory. It is so tedious that I couldn’t force myself to read without skimming on three different tries. If you found the Christian symbolism in The Last Battle too subtle, you may like this one. It spectacularly fails the “boring lectures and finger-wagging trash” test. “
‘There is no more Woman to step upon your head [..] We are men!’ he declared in a voice full of awe. ‘The gift of fire is ours!’
“On a Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli ★★☆☆☆
The premise is intriguing — the story takes place on a planet whose electromagnetic field is so strong that spirits/souls/ghosts get stuck. Unfortunately, much of the story reads like an encyclopedia entry,
“[t]he Ymilans have a low-tech highly-ritualized culture. Their religion is genuinely unique because the living and the spirits of the dead coexist side by side.”
Please, please, please. Show, don’t tell. Especially in a short story. Drop me into a magnificent world, don’t give me the lecture cliff notes.
“Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa ★★☆☆☆
I was reading Ancillary Justice while I read this story. Both stories are told from a ship’s POV. In both stories the ship has a choice to betray (other AIs/ships in Turncoat, Anaaneder Mianai in Ancillary Justice). In both cases the ship makes a moral choice in honor of the love the ship has for those that serve it. Turncoat suffers in comparison. The writing is wooden. There are huge sections of untagged dialog with no reaction or action, just dialog.
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing should say of him, “He did not make me,” or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding?”
I did not understand it then. But now, I think I know what it means.
“A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond ★★★☆☆ (pg 145)
Samurai vs Giant Monster — how can you go wrong? This is a fun read. The backstory and cultural history are woven into the story without overwhelming it. The writing is decent. While it does not rise to award-level, it is quite entertaining.
Well, that is the purpose of samurai, is it not? To make the sacrifices—regardless of how difficult or contrary to what logic declares—that no one else will make.
“Totaled” by Kary English ★★★☆☆
Pulled me in from the first paragraph. Threw me into the world and made me want to know who the narrator was, why she was dead, and what research she was part of. Then the story slowly fell apart for me. The Tea Party allegory (“The Treaders said taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for medical care someone else couldn’t afford, so they instituted a review board for totals.”). The cardboard cutout characters. There was so much potential here. I love how she had to use strong images to communicate but her slow degeneration was not as moving as Flowers for Algernon. This story had so much potential — it could have been so much more.
“Hard even to say “no” anymore. The crux of, of it, really. Brownies, vomit. Binary existence. Someone else’s control. Don’t want it. Notvomitnot.”
While I liked “A Single Samurai” and “Totaled”, neither of them are even close to being the best science fiction short story that has come out this year. Oh, Puppies, just because you agree with the message, it does not make the work any less message fiction.
1) No Award
2) “Totaled” by Kary English ★★★☆☆
3) “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond ★★★☆☆
4) “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa ★★☆☆☆
5) “On a Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli ★★☆☆☆
6) “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright ☆☆☆☆☆