First favorite fiction post of 2013 and there is a lot to talk about besides the fic I liked! I’ll begin with business.
First, I am posting a short list of favorite fic every month over at io9 now. Click here to see January’s picks. Each month I’ll choose my top favorites, usually 5 or so, to list there. I’ll also do more with print/subscription/non-free fiction there and podcasts. That list won’t mean that these lists will go away, though. There are shorts listed here that aren’t listed there.
Second, I’m now part of the Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth crew, so I will contribute to the Twitter account and possibly the podcast (I’m not in Australia or anything, so I have no clue how that works). So if you want to keep up with the stories I like as I read them, follow that account. I’m not the only one who tweets, so you get bonus thoughts from other folks doing the same thing I am.
Last, ever since I started reading short fic regularly I’ve wanted to have a place where I could go to have discussions about the stories. Not just the stories I like, but the ones I don’t that I still find interesting enough to discuss. Last time I brought this up on Twitter many were interested, so I’m bringing it up again. The thing I’m unsure about is where to host this discussion. G+ communities are now live and could work. DreamWidth communities might be better since it can be a little bit (but not totally) private. I’m just worried about people who may want to join the discussion feeling like they can’t unless they join DreamWidth. Maybe that’s an unfounded concern. Anyway, I would love to hear suggestions on this.
Okay, all that taken care of, it’s now time for the favorites list!
- The Advocate by Genevieve Valentine
Politics, bureaucracy, government ineptitude, the ambitions of petty little men. Too often stories with these elements end up being just as banal and annoying as dealing with them in real life. Here you get a reverse effect. The politicking leads to the result it usually does: something or someone is in danger. Valentine has a way of quietly and sneakily engaging you so that the reader is invested in the outcome as much as any of the characters, mainly because most of us know too well that these things rarely turn out well in real life.
- Eleutherios by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
This one is a freebie from Baen and takes place in the Liaden Universe. I wasn’t aware of any of this when I read the story and I’m not at all familiar with the work of Lee and Miller. I say this to point out that the story works well on its own with no need for prior knowledge of the world. The story hooked me with the early description of a damaged organ cared for by a monk who longs to hear it played again. The Abbey he resides in also serves as a detention center of sorts for criminals awaiting trial. The story takes its time weaving together the prisoner’s story with the fate of the monk and the organ, but the payoff is well worth it. A quiet but satisfying story.
- Daltharee by Jeffrey Ford [reprint]
What starts out as a simple story about growing a city in a bottle takes a philosophical, then a dark turn. As you’d expect from Ford, this all flows smoothly and it’s engaging right from the start.
- Selkie Stories Are for Losers by Sofia Samatar
Selkie moms are the worst. Human moms can be pretty bad, too. A story about what daughters go through when their moms let them down, and there are many ways in which a mom might let a daughter down. The tone of this piece hovers between snarky, lighthearted, longing, and despairing and balances all of that really well.
- Inventory by Carmen Maria Machado
I’m a fan of stories with non-traditional structures, and this one combines that with my love of lists. The protagonists looks back across her life and the things that led to her current state by listing all the people she’s had sexual encounters with in order to stay sane. It’s an interesting lens with which to examine a life.
- Goddess By Lavanya Karthik
TRIGGER WARNING: abuse and child abuse. In times of scarcity and uncertainty, there are always people ready to take advantage of the fears and desperation of others, especially in spiritual matters. That’s the world Karthik drops us into with this story, thus it’s fitting that it opens with dreams of extreme bloodshed. The story is somewhat jangly and could do with some smoothing of the structure to eliminate confusion in the beginning, but once I got past that the characters and situation ended up being very compelling.
- Staying Behind by Ken Liu
In this post-Singularity story, the humans of Earth look on those who’ve decided to upload their consciousness to machines as “the Dead”, which is an interesting way to frame the issue. It’s almost a reverse ancestor worship. I liked the story, but wouldn’t say it’s one of Liu’s best. It’s a bit more straightforward than his really good fiction, but you can tell he’s going for something deeper than what’s on the surface. That reaching doesn’t mar the story in any way.
- The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics by Daniel Abraham [reprint]
It’s said that artists often create the best works of art when under some kind of forced restriction. This story proves the point well. originally published in “Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories” where each author had to craft a story around a specific word. The word in question here is Cambist, and Abraham masterfully crafts a story around a word that is unlikely to be found on most modern fiction, even fantasy fiction. And while the structure is that of a fairy tale, it’s by no means slight.
- The Patrician by Tansy Rayner Roberts
A monster hunting story with all the usual trappings, but told from the perspective of a woman as she grows from a teenager living an isolated life in a tourist town to a grandmother. I like the scope of this story as well as the viewpoint.
- The Message Between The Words by Grayson Bray Morris
This is the type of story where the idea is more powerful than the plot itself, yet somehow it still manages to come together well in the end. The protagonist is also engaging, which helps. Overall, this story kind of tumbles together well even though individual aspects of it don’t quite work.
- Trixie and the Pandas of Dread by Eugie Foster
My love for this story is white hot and burning like the sun. Trixie is a goddess of wrath, but she wasn’t born one and still struggles to reconcile her goddess-self with her mortal brain. Oh, and she smites jerks and assholes. And I love her.
- The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell
This story admittedly drew me in because I’ve seen my share of performance art, most of it ridiculous and pretentious and not worth my time. A common experience when witnessing PA was the reaction from the audience. People who tried to justify the mess in front of them by assigning it artistic merit or pretending to understand the “meaning” or the artist’s intent. There are reactions you could count on hearing no matter what the art. Prell nails that in this story, and this elements makes the ending more powerful for it.
Visit my Favorite Fiction tag to see all the other short stories I’ve liked so far this year.