It’s award nomination season. I’ll list stories by others I liked and stories from me that are eligible.
Works I Liked
Below are some works from the past year that I think are worthy of your attention. To my regret, I didn’t have much time to read novels. (I’ll be updating this over time, so stay tuned.)
- “Tongtong’s Summer”, by Xia Jia (“Xia Jia” is a pen name but you can treat “Xia” as a surname), September 2014 (Upgraded): A story about how technology can help a population often ignored in visions of the future: the elderly. I got all choked up translating this story. As Xia Jia writes in her note: “[L]iving with an awareness of the closeness of death is nothing to be afraid of.”
- “The Fisher Queen”, by Alyssa Wong, May/June 2014 (F&SF): an unsettling, powerful, and complex critique of rape culture with an ending that is thoughtful and politically astute. The story is also notable for its craft: pay attention to how it builds tension without seeming to build tension. Wong is also one of my nominees for the Campbell.
- “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”, by Sarah Pinsker, March/April 2014 (F&SF): a scifi story, to be sure, but with a very “literary” style and execution that I very much like. It’s a tale of restlessness, of desire and longing, of the way the world inscribes itself on our bodies and evokes elsewhere.
- “Still Life, With Oranges”, by John P. Murphy, January 2014 (Lakeside Circus): A new twist on the time-loop concept that achieves surprising poignancy with very little space. Do note that Murphy is eligible for the Campbell.
- “Resurrection Points”, by Usman T. Malik, August 2014 (Strange Horizons): a powerful story about faith, love, and remaining moral in a time of evil. Also contains one of the most unusual and refreshing uses of the zombie trope I’ve ever seen.
- “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”, by Usman T. Malik, September 2014 (Qualia Nous): a searing vision of endurance and the struggle for justice — belongs to that genre of SFF close to my heart in which a metaphor is literalized and re-presented in the language of science. The ending, especially, is indelible. Based on what I’ve read, Malik would be an amazing nominee for the Campbell.
- “The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul”, by Natalia Theodoridou, February 2014 (Clarkesworld): A story that draws its inspiration from the works of the artist Theo Jansen (see strandbeest). The lyricism and imagery here are very much in line with what I think of as the prototypical Clarkesworld aesthetic. But the power of the story comes from the way it endows the mechanical with the breath of a soul, much as Jansen endows his creations with the stumbling hesitation of life.
- “Icarus Falls”, by Alex Shvartsman, September 2014 (Daily Science Fiction): I consider this Alex’s strongest story. Alex is usually known for his humorous stories (like the WSFA Small Press Award-winning “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma”), but this belongs to his more meditative, philosophical side. Not to be missed.
- “Copy Machine”, by Shane Halbach, June 2014 (Flash Fiction Online): It’s hard to pack so much emotional punch into a flash-length piece, but this one does it by starting with a fantastical premise and then spinning it out in layers and layers of literalized metaphors—my favorite mode in fantasy.
- “Five Stages of Grief After the Alien Invasion”, by Caroline M. Yoachim, August 2014 (Clarkesworld): an invasion story that features interesting aliens and a realistic portrayal of what trauma does to a family. There’s a scene near the end that moved me deeply as a parent.
- “The Floating Girls: A Documentary”, by Damien Angelica Walters, September 2014 (Jamais Vu): a story that uses a SFnal metaphor to talk about the duty to bear witness to the truth. This is an important and personal theme for me, and Damien’s story addresses the theme exceptionally well.
- “The Lonely Sea in the Sky”, by Amal El-Mohtar, June 2014 (Lightspeed: Women Destroy Science Fiction): a poetic meditation on the ways in which our empathy with the universe is limited and self-limiting. The story is also notable for its strong, unsettling, mesmerizing narrative voice.
- “Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy”, by Xia Jia, September 2014 (Clarkesworld): A series of vignettes of the near future connected by the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) — as the author writes in her note: “In a few decades, I don’t know if anyone will still remember how to chant ancient poems, but I do know that in every passing moment, the people in every house—men, women, old, young—are living lives as meaningful as they’re ordinary.” (Full disclosure: I translated this story.)
- “Death in a Tin Can”, by John P. Murphy, September 2014 (available from Too Much Coffee Press): I love scifi mysteries, and this murder mystery on a spaceship is a gem.
- “The Magician and Laplace’s Demon”, by Tom Crosshill, December 2014 (Clarkesworld): a story providing a hard scifi explanation for magic (or is it a magical explanation for quantum phenomena?). The language, imagery, plot are all excellent, but Tom really nails the ending (or does he?).
- “Freeverse”, by Dario Ciriello, 2014 (Panverse): a story about parallel universes that takes into account the parallel nature of suffering.
- “Claudius Rex”, by John P. Murphy, May 2014 (Alembical 3): A scifi mystery featuring smart, funny banter between an AI detective and its human sidekick. Very clever use of technology. So much fun.
- “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)”, by Rachel Swirsky, Summer 2014 (Subterranean): I’ve always been partial to Rachel’s artificial life stories (e.g., “Eros, Philia, Agape”), and this one is among her best. A moving story about the preservation of memory, of continuity in life, of the ways we hurt each other even when we try to love each other. It also features one of the most interesting characters in genre fiction who is hard to like and yet I can’t help but like. A masterpiece in every sense.
- The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu, translated by me, November 2014 (Tor Books): though a translated novel, this is eligible for the awards as its first English publication is 2014. I and others have spoken at length about how amazing this book is, and I won’t belabor the point here. If you’re looking for an exciting hard scifi novel with a non-Western POV, you can’t go wrong with this one.
- Tommy Black and the Staff of Light, by Jake Kerr, November 2014 (Currents & Tangents Press): I blurbed this one – “Jake Kerr has told an exciting coming-of-age tale that asks serious ethical questions about the costs of magic. This is a world that will stay with the reader long after the last page.”
Repeating again that I didn’t get to read many novels in genre last year. However, I am really pleased with my one suggestion here.
Campbell (Best New Writer)
I think you should look at the works of Wesley Chu (check out his Tao Series), Usman Malik, John P. Murphy, Alyssa Wong, and JY Yang (check out “Storytelling for the Night Clerk” and “Patterns Of A Murmuration, In Billions Of Data Points”).
Eligible Stories from Me
If you’d like to nominate one of my stories published in 2014 for an award, I’ve listed my favorite eligible works below. The bolded ones I like the most. Thank you very much for the thought. (Feel free to email me for a copy of a story that’s not freely available online.)
- “In the Loop” — War Stories, edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak, August 2014 (please email me for a review copy).
- “Lecture 14: Concerning the Event Cloaking Device and Practical Applications Thereof” — Cosmos, April 2014.
- “The Clockwork Soldier” – Clarkesworld, January 2014. (There’s also an audio version narrated by Kate Baker.)
- “Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” — Kaleidoscope, an anthology of diverse YA contemporary fantasy edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, August 4, 2014 (reprinted by Tor.com).
- “The Plantimal” – Asimov’s, March 2014, cowritten with Mike Resnick.
- “The Long Haul” – Clarkesworld, November 2014 (a selection in Dozois’s Year’s Best and Strahan’s Year’s Best).
- “Presence” – Uncanny, November 2014.
- “Reborn” — Tor.com, January 29, 2014.
- “What I Assume You Shall Assume” — Dead Man’s Hand, edited by John Joseph Adams, May 13, 2014 (please email me for a review copy).
- “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring” — Long Hidden, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, May 9, 2014 (please email me for a review copy).
- “None Owns the Air” – Lightspeed, February 2014.