The following eight stories are the finalists for the Hugo and/or Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 2017, with my thoughts on each.
Science fiction/fantasy has changed a great deal since the days when I first started reading. (I should hope so; that was over 45 years ago.) The number of men and women has reversed, and the experiences are no longer solely those of WASP American (sometimes British) men. It’s wonderful to know that the stories will be of a wider range, even if it does mean that there’s a good chance that they may not appeal to me. At least they will appeal to more people ultimately.
Ultimately, that’s good news in the stories below. I’m not a fan of horror, so there’s one of these that doesn’t appeal at all; several others wouldn’t be on my recommendation list, but all of them are worth reading. And it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if you disagree with me on which are the best; that’s what the comments section is for. (Good manners, however, are a must.)
I think of the eight, my favorite is “Fandom for Robots”, but there are several that I will be happy to see win awards. Lovely selection.
Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 11, 2017). Both
The allegory in this fantasy was a little heavy-handed for my taste. Still, a sweet and haunting story.
Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde (Uncanny September/October 2017). Both
Creepy! I like the stories I read to be a little clearer as to what’s going on. Clearly, many others disagreed since it’s on both the Hugo and Nebula lists. Brrr.
Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny September/October 2017). Both
Delightful, and lovely to read about a robot fanficcer. Also, this is the second story I’ve read recently about a robot enjoying entertainment viewing. (The first is All Systems Red by Martha Wells.)
The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard) by Matthew Kressel (Tor.com, March 15, 2017). Nebula
A lovely, quiet look at death, love, storytelling, and doing things by hand.
The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata (Tor.com, July 19, 2017). Hugo
Set in a world devastated by many small disasters, this story offers a reminder of the horror of hope.
Sun, Moon, Dust by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017). Hugo
Nice. A quiet subversion about the standard story of a farmer being given a magic sword and leaving their farm to use it. Allpa is given the sword SunMoonDust by his dying grandmother, but the only battle he has to fight is against the earth to get his harvest.
Utopia, LOL?, Jamie Wahls (Strange Horizons, June 5, 2017). Nebula
A fascinating story about a person from the future trying to guide an old man from the past who was cryogenically frozen while dying of cancer with the help of the AI who runs their virtual universe. The end has a lovely twist. Wonderful.
Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience TM by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex August 2017). Both
On the border between fantasy and science fiction, this story is a painful look at cultural appropriation. Well done.