Only 3 nominees this year, 2 online. All originally published during 2012.
None really worked for me, though Bodard's has an idea briefly taken up near the end of the story that I could identify with - intelligently adapting an artifact of an alien civilization isn't easy; for best results, you better be born in the culture that originated it! Artifacts carry around their cultural origins in many ways.
List below is in order of my preference. Links on author or publisher fetches more matching fiction.
- Aliette de Bodard's "Immersion" (B); download text/audio; Clarkesworld, June 2012: Not sure what to think of it. And it certainly
didn't touch me at any emotional level.
There is a gadget - an "immerser". "Wear" it & you become someone else, whatever avatar you choose. And you can wear it at varying levels of power that determines how much you will be aware of you real self when wearing it.
Set aboard a "station" that makes money from "Galactics", a technologically advanced stream of humanity that has split from earth.
There is a minor side story of a woman who married to a different culture, felt completely lost, tried to fit in so much she lost her own original self.
- Kij Johnson's "Mantis Wives" (B); download text/audio; Clarkesworld,
August 2012; macabre: The story doesn't really say anything, but uses
nice language & is comprised of many tiny episodes.
Mantis, an insect whose female eats the male after copulation. Could the mantis develop this killing into an art? Story describes many ways the female could slowly torture & kill her mate!
- [winner] Ken Liu's "Mono no Aware" (B); Nick Mamatas & Masumi Washington (eds)' "The Future is Japanese"; apocalypse: Tries too hard to arouse your emotions. And too dramatic near end, for my taste.
Life on earth is about to be destroyed by an asteroid(?) impact & the world knows it early enough. It's about reactions in a small Japanese town to this news, & later escape to a distant star in a solar-sail powered generation ship of the only human survivors - mostly Americans, plus a few others, among them a child from this Japanese town