We're super happy to welcome forestofglory back to Lady Business to discuss her favorite short fiction of 2016! forestofglory is a long time friend of the blog and also one of the organizers behind creating a YA Award for Worldcon. You can vote on the future award name at bit.ly/worldconya . Now onto some recs!
Hi everyone. I'm forestofglory and I'm here to talk about 2016 short fiction. I read a fair amount of SFF short fiction, though not even close to all that is published each year. I mostly read short fiction online, but also read anthologies and collections, and sometime even print magazines (which I get from my local library). 2016 wasn't a great reading year for me. I was battling depression, overwhelmed by U.S. political events, and was the parent of an infant. So I read an even smaller share of the stories published this year than in the past. Still, I wanted to share some of my favorites with everyone.
Like all reviewers I have my own idiosyncrasies. I like domestic tasks and family relationships and I prefer cheerful stories to grim ones. So of course my favorite stories reflect that. This year I read many, many grim stories, but you won't find many of them on this list. Some of them were great stories, but they weren't my favorites.
I've broken these down by Hugo categories for those of you nominating for awards.
Short StoriesAwarded for science fiction or fantasy story of less than seven thousand five hundred (7,500) words. There are more of these published each year than any other short fiction category.
"To Rise No More" By Marie Brennan — An Ada Lovelace story set in her Onyx Court world (a secret history with fae). No spoilers. I'm a fan of Sydney Padua's Lovelace and Babbage comics, but I enjoyed this very different take on Ada Lovelace focusing on her early life.
"A Good Home" by Karin Lowachee — When our main character adopts a traumatized battle robot he has to deal with the prejudices of his family and his neighbours. I enjoyed the found family aspects of this one.
"Clover" by Charlie Jane Anders — This happy queer story featuring cats is set in the same world as All the Birds in the Sky (contains minor spoilers for the novel). This story is just so cute!
"A Salvaging of Ghosts" by Aliette de Bodard (content note: death of an adult child) — This story is so beautiful, sad, and lovely. You should read it especially if you liked The Citadel of Weeping Pearls. (This story is part of de Bodard's Xuya series which is eligible for the Best Series category.)
"Seven Birthdays" by Ken Liu — This story about three generations of women didn't go where I was expecting it to at all, but it was great. I love the ways Liu explores complex family relationships. This story contains sad personal moments, but is optimistic about the future of the human race.
"The Mountains His Crown" by Sarah Pinsker — A story about farmers. I love that this story focuses on growing food, crafting things, and using that to solve problems. The main character is queer.
"The most important thing" by Marissa Lingen — A very short story about history and what it means to people's daily lives. I loved the complex worldbuilding that gets done with a few telling details here.
NoveletteAwarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seven thousand five hundred (7,500) and seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) words. This is kind of a strange category that isn't intuitive to most people, but I love short fiction so I'm happy to have another category.
Superior by Jessica Lack — I generally don't like superheroes (because crime is a systematic problem that can't be solved by punching people) so I was disappointed when Book Smugglers Publishing announced their theme for this year would be superheroes. But it turned out they published a lot of great stuff, including this story. It's an M/M romance between a superhero's intern and a supervillain's apprentice. It dives into issues like unpaid internships and is also super cute.
"Kid Dark Against The Machine" by Tansy Rayner Roberts — Another from the Book Smugglers' superheroes series, this is a loose sequel to "Cookiecutter Superhero" in that it takes place in the same world and has a few character overlaps. However, it stands on its own. This is the cheerful short fiction I've been looking for; it's upbeat, warm, and just lovely. It features a former superhero working at the foster home he grew up at.
"The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon — This story made me really want a tomato. It features cranky old women, trains, and the logistics of foodstuff. All of which there should be more stories about. This story is sequel to "Jackalope Wives" but would read fine on its own. Grandma Harken is a lot of fun to read about.
"The Book of How to Live" by Rose Lemberg — A story in Lemberg's birdverse world. This story features different forms of oppression and resistance. It was a story I needed to read and hold onto in this political moment.
"The Scrape of Tooth and Bone" by Ada Hoffmann — I put off reading this story for ages because the title sounded creepy, but it turned out to be awesome. This is steampunk short with an autistic lesbian protagonist and fossils, because every story would be better with dinosaur bones in it.
"The Art of Space Travel" by Nina Allan — It's 2047 and Emily works at hotel near Heathrow where two astronauts will soon be staying before they launch for Mars. This is one of the best things I've read this year. This story focuses on daily life in the future. I really loved the details and also the relationships between the characters, especially the main character and her mother who suffers from dementia.
NovellasAwarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words. 2016 was an impressive year for novellas, mostly thanks to Tor.com's new novella line. This has meant a lot more novellas got published in general and more of them in hard copy. I was able to check out a bunch of these from the library, which was nice.
Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan — This the first of at least two novellas in a new series from Marie Brennan, author of The Natural History of Dragons series. I always enjoy Brennan's work.
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson — My classicist friend was impressed with this because it gets all the Latin right. The author is doing something quite complex and a bit over my head with language and dialect. I liked this because of the characters and the worldbuilding.
Penric's Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold — Set in the world of the five gods in which the author has also written several novels. This is the third Penric novella and the best so far. While it is not Bujold at her peak, it has lots of the good qualities of her work. While some of her recent stuff has had problems, this reminded me of why I've loved her work in the past. You could read this without reading anything else first, though there are some spoilers for the other two Penric novellas.
Collections and AnthologiesThe Hugos don't give out an award for collections and anthologies, but maybe they should (just don't put me in charge of figuring out how to word such a category). I didn't read as many of these as I would have liked, but here are few that I wanted to highlight.
An Alphabet of Embers edited by Rose Lemberg — This just so pretty! The art is by likhain and is totally amazing. The language of the stories was also lovely and lyrical I also appreciated that this had a mix of light and dark stories.
Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap — A set of interconnected stories about magical girls who are now in their 20s. Each story focuses on one team member to build a whole story arc. I liked the exploration of the emotional difficulties of being a magical girl, and I loved the friendships between the team members.