johncoxon: ([Me] Reading)
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91) ‘How I Crippled a World for Just 0.01 Cents’ by Michael W. Lucht
First published, 2010 – appeared in The Drabblecast #247

It really would be terrible if you had to pay royalties on common physical formulae; V = IR costs $12 to licence in this short piece. Cheaper systems are available, but many of them are nonsense – especially the very cheap Aristotelian mechanics, which are almost completely useless. I liked these concepts, they made me smile.

The Drabblecast are apparently currently running a little low on funds, so if you listen, help them out and donate, mmmkay?

92) ‘Softlight Sins’ by Peter F. Hamilton
First published, 1997/1998 – appeared in StarShipSofa #212

This was a pretty immense story about capital punishment, the nature of the soul and a variety of other things. The reading in StarShipSofa was great, I was quite impressed. The story starts in one manner and ends in another, but the ending is fantastic. I love the central conceit, of a form of capital punishment that doesn’t actually require the death of the body; I was a little confused by some of the religious undertones partway through the story, but I think it works, in the end.

93) ‘Dial Double Zero’ by Ray Bradbury
First published, 1963? – appeared on BBC Radio 4

I’ve got to be honest I didn’t get this one, and I’m thinking that might be the fault of the BBC’s way of presenting it as a dramatisation. A quick Google to find the publication date reveals a page that says the point of the story was about the spontaneous creation of Artificial Intelligence. The impression I gleaned from the BBC’s version was that a mental person had gone around codifying his younger self into tapes and set them all to ring him incessantly when he turned 80, which just didn’t make any sense whatsoever. I think, to be fair, I should probably read the short story proper.

94) ‘113 Feet’ by Josh Roseman
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #351

I liked this story, which was told from the perspective of a girl learning more about her father as she grew up. It’s another example of how good the original fiction from Escape Pod is. In this one, the girl reads her father’s notes on a couple of occasions to learn that he’s not really in the line of work he says he is, but in another one; she’s not sure which, because she’s too young to understand some of the words. The story jumps forwards through her childhood and further revelations about her father before, one day, something happens to turn these revelations into an obsession. I liked this a lot, and while I’m going to include it on my Hugo longlist just in case I don’t think it’ll make the final cut.

95) ‘The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (Prologue)’ by John Scalzi
First published, 2011 – appeared in the Hugo Voter Packet

I enjoyed this but the joke began to wear thin by the end and it’s nowhere near to the same standard as any of the other Hugo-nominated short stories in 2012. There really isn’t much substance to the story and whilst I suspect that’s a deliberate decision, it also means I don’t have much to say about it, nor do I have any real desire to put it higher than last place in my Hugo rankings.

96) ‘Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage’ by Seanan McGuire
First published, 2011 – appeared in StarShipSofa #245

I enjoyed this story, overall. It was about a young girl in a faraway, fantasy land who fought some bad guys before coming home, to our universe, to sleep. She gets visited in the night, with huge ramifications for her plans for the future. It’s a good tale, and I liked the Truth Fairy and her effect on people quite a lot, but I didn’t really feel the ending was great.

97) ‘Food for Thought’ by Laura Lee McArdle
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #352

This one’s about an intelligent (ish) cow who is taking part in a reality television show being put on by people from the future. I enjoyed it, although it was incredibly silly. Just the sort of story to kick off a Monday without needing to think too much – I’d recommend it but it isn’t going on my Hugo longlist!

98) ‘The Cockroach Hat’ by Terry Bisson
First published, 2010 – appeared in The Drabblecast #248

This one was even sillier than the last one. Perhaps ‘whimsical’ is a better word. The plot is so disjointed that I can’t even begin to sum it up, and the central conceit appeared to be that anyone can turn into a cockroach at any time. It made me giggle, but it’s one surreal kettle of fish.

99) ‘The Steam Dancer (1896)’ by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
First published, 2007 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This story was intriguing, set somewhere in the United States (‘the great smoky city at the end of the mountains’) and following the tale of Missouri Banks, a woman who has mechanical protheses instead of her left leg or her right arm. It was well-written, especially the dialogue. I loved the description of the dancing, which was really vivid and also very body-positive, both things of which I wholeheartedly approve! There aren’t any big ideas here (beyond clockwork protheses in the 19th century) but that didn’t matter to me given how much fun I had.

100) ‘Ruminations in an Alien Tongue’ by Vandana Singh
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

This one’s a bit of an odd one. It’s about a woman called Birha and her experiences with aliens. I’m presuming that the reader is supposed to assume that the story is a translation from an alien tongue, or perhaps we’re the aliens and so English is the alien tongue – either way the title doesn’t appear to bear much relevance to the story, which is mostly concerned with many-worlds theories. It’s a curiously mellow tale of love and heartbreak, and I enjoyed it.

101) ‘Nomad’ by Karin Lowachee
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

I liked this one. I liked the concept of a Fuse at a very early age between a Radical (the name for the artificial intelligences in the story) and a human. The story is touching, and it didn’t feel as long as some of the novelettes that I read in the Hugo packet this year. It’s about a Radical who survives an event that kills everyone else present, including its human – it has to deal with that, and the story describes it leaving the Streak (tribe/clan thing) to which it belonged.

(I hadn’t noticed before that Lightspeed publishes novelettes as well as short stories, and this is the first one of those that I’ve noticed. Since they only appear to publish one Hugo-eligible novelette per issue, I figure there’s not much point in longlisting them since I can just go through and refresh my memory of the twelve that I’ve read.)

102) ‘Our Town’ by Kim Stanley Robinson
First published, 1986 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

Stunning short story about sculptures made from microuniverses containing living beings, frozen at just the right instant to create the desired effect. Totally great idea, however, the ending struck me as rather a damp squib – I was expecting some revelation about Desmond and the girl, but nothing was forthcoming and the story finished very abruptly.

103) ‘Mother Ship’ by Caroline M. Yoachim
First published, 2012 – appeared in Lightspeed Magazine #23

The title is a literal one, which gives you some idea of the content of the story; I loved the idea of a colony ship bred for the purpose, and the idea of humans taking it, fiddling with it and fucking it up resonated with me. I really liked the way that Yoachim makes it seem more plausible by taking the way we do IVF and applying it to how we attempt to breed a ship for ourselves. Melancholy in its own way.

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