Official announcement & my opening remarks.
I gave up 3 of the 6 stories part way through. May be I'm growing impatient with stories that don't engage.
"Tragic" seems to be a common theme: one of the stories is about a major tragedy in author's personal life, another retells a Greek tragedy from an alternate perspective, third is about the tragedy of being old & sick. Even Bacigalupi's generally readable story contains elements of a tragedy, from a Western point of view, of being born in Vietnam.
If you are looking for a story that doesn't leave you in a worse mood than the one you started out with, "Divining Light" is about the only choice. But this is hard sf, & expects about 10+2 level Physics background - so it's not for everyone. On second thoughts, probably Bacigalupi's too won't leave in bad mood either, but it didn't work as well for me.
Nominees (6 stories, best first, unread last).Where I'm aware of an online copy, I include download link too. If I have a separate post on a story, link on story title goes there. For read stories, my rating (ABC: A = worth the time, C = don't bother) is in brackets. Links on author or publisher fetch more fiction from source.
- Ted Kosmatka's "Divining Light" (A); download; Asimov's, August 2008; hard sf: Who else, besides humans, is special in god's scheme of things?
Note the interesting bits are in second half. First half is quite ordinary.
Caution: Download link above has recently been behaving erratically - sometimes fetching the file, other times giving 404. Sometimes it seems to work via this alternate longer version that resolves to same link above. File is hosted at author's site; so you might want to complain to him if neither doesn't work.
Update 2 March 2010: Two more download links are now available at Asimov's site: text/podcast.
- Rachel Swirsky's "A Memory of Wind" (A); download; tor.com, November 2009: An innocent girl is murdered by her own father - as a sacrifice to please a god! A variation of a Greek legend.
- Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Gambler" (B); download; Lou Anders (Ed)'s "Fast Forward 2", Pyr Books, October 2008: A Vietnamese immigrant to US is working for a near-future newsroom, & is not quite cut out for the job.
- Michael Bishop's "Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage" (C); download text/audio; Asimov's, July 2008: Gave up within a couple of pages. A woman is forcibly taken to the "Vinegar Peace", an "orphanage" for people whose children have died in some sort of war.
I later learned, at StarShipSofa audio download link above, that this story grew out of a major personal tragedy in author's life - loss of a son in a school shootout. Which probably will make me pick it up again sometime later to give a more sympathetic reading; it certainly is not for those seeking entertainment.
- Richard Bowes' "I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said" (C); download; F&SF, December 2009: Cannot make out the head or tail of it. Gave up may be a third of the way through.
A 60 year old very sick man is having strange dreams & visits from a cop!
May be later parts of the story will reveal something profound, but I don't have patience. Nothing engaging so far.
- [winner] Eugie Foster's "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" (C); download; Interzone, #220 (February 2009): I once tried reading it - gave up part way through. Beginning looked like something inspired by Jack Vance's funny "The Moon Moth" - a society where it's impolite to meet someone without wearing a mask. But it's nothing like Vance's classic, & I got quickly bored.
- Other short fiction categories in this year's Nebula awards: short stories, [novellas].
- Last year's Nebula awards: short stories, novelettes, novellas.
- Competing awards that recognize "best" fiction originally published in 2009: Aurialis (Australian authors), BSFA (fiction published in UK), Million Writers (global, online short fiction).
Note the scope of Nebulas is 1.5 years - later half of 2008 & all of 2009. All other awards only care about 2009.
- Anthologies that collect "best fiction originally published during 2009": Dozois', Hartwell/Cramer's, Horton's, Strahan's.
- My "best fiction originally published during 2009, 2010" lists (also list others' best of relevant year lists at bottom).
- "Best of" lists.
- Fiction originally published in 2008/2009, during 2000s.