I’ve been listening to Escape Pod and the Drabblecast, and reading Clarkesworld Magazine and Lightspeed Magazine, in order to get a more solid grounding in the short stories being written in science fiction. I wanted to keep some sort of record about the stories I’d been hearing through these channels, so I’m going to try to write a bit about each one as I listen to or read it. Since part of my motivation is to keep track of what I want to nominate for the Hugos, you might find that I oftentimes mention whether or not I think I’ll nominate something; apologies in advance if you find that dull. I’ve counted the number of stories I’ve listened to, courtesy of the podcasts, and read, courtesy of the magazines – this takes me to approximately sixty-eight short stories read so far this year, which is way higher than I’d thought it would be.
One of the things that terrifies me, when it comes to writing about my reading, is that I’m not very well-read and I don’t have much skill in thinking critically about literature. What follows may well be total clap-trap, but it’s what I thought, so I guess you guys will have to cope somehow.
64) ‘“Run,” Bakri Says’ by Ferrett Steinmetz
First published, 2011 – appeared in Escape Pod #339.
I found this one very compelling, mainly for its structure and its ideas. It’s about a mission, and a save point to which the protagonist returns every time she fails. I don’t know whether you need to be a gamer to appreciate it or not, but I am and I really did – I loved how accurate the feeling I got from the story was, when compared to the feeling one actually gets from restarting endlessly from a point in a game. Another thing I found extremely compelling was the thought that Steinmetz puts into what the process would do to the one who was being zapped back to the save point. I loved this story.
65) ‘Next Time, Scales’ by John Moran
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #347.
I liked this one for the dynamic between the two central characters, who are two individuals from different species. Their relationship is at the centre of the story, told through the human’s eyes – although the plot kept things going, it was clearly just there to facilitate its exploration. I really liked, towards the end, the description of what it’s like to see the world through the body of another species. I enjoyed this one, but I don’t think it quite does enough to make it onto my nominations list.
66) ‘Nemesis’ by Nathaniel Lee
First published, 2012 – appeared in Escape Pod #348.
I was excited to hear that June is superhero month at the Escape Pod, and also excited for this story. It starts out exciting, and I figured I knew where it was going about halfway through, but it completely surprised me in such a brilliant way, filling me with emotion and hope and glow. It also made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions, which is pretty impressive given that I listened to it on my walk through the dark on the way home – I got a strange look from a policeman I was walking past at one point. This one will almost certainly make it onto my Hugo ballot – as well as being completely uplifting, it plays nicely with the expectations of the audience. Recommended!
67) ‘And the Hollow Space Inside’ by Mari Ness
First published, 2012 – appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine #65.
Although I found this conceptually interesting – the character around which the plot revolves is a fascinating thought experiment – I found the structure overly fiddly and difficult to follow. I appreciate that that’s probably the author’s desire to try to capture the mental state of the mother, through whose perspective the story is told, but I found it distracting rather than immersive or clever. In the defence of the author, the ebook does a much worse job of differentiating between different sections than the story does online.
68) ‘A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight’ by Xia Jia
First published in English, 2012 – appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine #65.
I’m not sure what I thought about this one. It’s about a young boy, raised by ghosts, but I found it a bit fleeting. There’s not enough development of the characters to get across the feelings that I think are required to really appreciate the ending; it’s quite clever in some ways, but ultimately didn’t really grab me in the way I wanted it to.