Welcome to 2013, everyone! Since I was so abominably late with my October favorites I decided to spend my vacation time reading and thus get you my final favorites for 2012 just as we rang in the new year. In a separate post I’ll also put up my top picks for the year. The stories that I would put in a year’s best collection were I in charge of one.
There’s a nice, long list of great stories here with some new names among them.
- Relic by Jeffrey Ford
This story sits on the line between SF and F and sticks out it’s tongue at anyone who wants to drag it firmly into one territory or another. It entreats you into the narrative in waves and even when you think you understand where it’s going and what it’s doing, there’s another bend and there’s that tongue again. Very well crafted and evocative.
- Labyrinth by Mari Ness
Lovely and crunchy and dark, which is pretty classic Mari Ness. And you’ll hear no complaints from me about it as this story wrapped itself around me right from the start. A labyrinth!
- The Wisdom of Ants by Thoraiya Dyer
Though this story is pure science fiction, it has a fantasy sensibility that I deeply love. Here again is that thing I like to read about: female empowerment mixed in with some coming of age. And comeuppance. I love me some comeuppance.
- Sprig by Alex Bledsoe
This story is nice and cute and fun and I adored it. I’m more of a sucker for fairies than you’d imagine.
- Firebugs by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I found this story really moving and engaging and I don’t feel like I’ve even plumbed its depths properly. I want to sit down with it again after a few months and read it for fresh insights. As always, Hoffman piles on so many layers and is doing so many different things that it’s possible to read it in various ways and still grok the story. Excellent.
- A Well-Adjusted Man by Tom Crosshill
Trigger warning on this for violence and hints of domestic violence. This dystopia isn’t so very far away from where we are now. Not in internal chronology, but culturally. Good read.
- Seven Smiles and Seven Frowns by Richard Bowes
I often groan when I see fantasy authors trying to create credible myths and folk tales for their created worlds. Often, they’re bad at it because they don’t understand how mythology works and the purpose of tales told to The People. So, I say to all you fantasy authors out there, if you want to create some myths and tales, read the story first. It’s also just a really good story. (With badass women)
- A Game of Rats and Dragon by Tobias S. Buckell
The comment thread in this story was the scene of a rather ridiculous flamewar which I fear may have overshadowed the story itself, which is quite good. I love the idea of people living out their lives in a real time, real life massively multiplayer game. And, of course, in a world like that you’ll have people scraping together a living taking small part in those worlds. I felt that the emotional resonance at the end didn’t satisfy me as much as I would have liked given the world Buckell builds up, but it does prime me for more stories or even a novel with this backdrop, perhaps even with these characters.
- Searching for Slave Leia by Sandra McDonald
Even though this kind o story could easy be waved off as geek pandering because of how meta it is, I think McDonald manages to avoid being twee and get to something deeper and more interesting than just fan service.
- As the Wheel Turns by Aliette de Bodard
It is not surprising that this story was first published in an anthology called EPIC, because that’s what it is. Cycles of reincarnation and pain plus a woman finding her power. All good stuff.
- Good Hunting by Ken Liu
Yet another amazing Ken Liu story. His works aren’t always a home run, but when he’s on he’s really good, and this story is just more evidence of that. There are several layers of complexity here as he folds in colonialism, imperialism, and cultural death while addressing issues of sexism and even rape culture (there are no on-screen rapes, though). Very finely crafted story.
- Household Management by Ellen Klages
Sherlock Holmes fans who love Mrs. Hudson will love this story. And I’m not just talking people who like BBC Sherlock or the Downey/Law movies or people who’ve read the books and stories. It’s one that works across many of the different Sherlock-inflused medium (at least, the ones that include this character. Sorry Elementary fans). short and fun and very on point (and feminist, too).
- The Memory Eater by Holly Day
This story is very evocative and creepy, but I wish that in the end I understood better what exactly was going on. However, I kept thinking about the story for several days after I read it, which is a good sign.
- How to Make a Triffid by Kelly Lagor
Despite not being a huge science geek myself, I love the way this piece entwines hardcore biological science with a richly-told character exploration and doesn’t force me to feel one particular way about the protagonist in the end. Really complex and great.
- Heads Will Roll by Lish McBride
I have a dubious history with unicorn stories, but give me something about badass women raining down vengeance on the deserving and you have me hooked. While this reads clearly to me as the backstory to a fabulous novel, I think it resolves itself in a satisfying way. And again: badass women get me almost every time.
- America Thief by Alter S. Reiss
A period piece that combines gangsters with magic. I like the moral ambiguity going on here as well as the evocation of the cultures roiling around with each other.
- The Hateful Brilliance of His Eyes by Alec Austin
This is a fun story, though it doesn’t come off that way at first. I imagine that there are many buddy tales of Liao Jun and Yan Ming that are equally entertaining in this author’s future (or perhaps they already exist). One of the things I like about it is that even though there’s clearly a history between these two and there are clearly more adventures, this is a complete story in itself that resolves satisfyingly on both a character and plot level. Well done!
Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.