Because I’m a realist and I know I’ll run out of time, I thought I’d throw my nominations for novella, novelette and short story together in one post.
- ‘‘Times Table’’, Robert Shearman (Everyone’s Just So So Special)
Last year I joined the Last Short Story crew and seriously believed I’d read at least 400 pieces by the end of the year. It was a rookie mistake. 186 short stories later and it looks like I only read one novella length piece worth nominating.* That said, my reading fell significantly towards the end of the year and so I missed pieces like Kij Johnson’s “The Man Who Bridged The Mist,” which has garnered a bit of hype since its publication.
That said, the story I have nominated is a real stonker. Rob Shearman’s “Times Table”, which sits at the heart of his collection, starts with a strange premise – a girl who sheds her skin every birthday – and then grows ever more disturbing, especially when you discover that the shed skins are still “alive” and stored in the attic. It’s a remarkable piece of prolonged, intense writing about identity and self-hood and… well… David Hebblethwaite says it better than me here.
- ‘‘The Silver Wind’’, Nina Allan (Interzone 3-4/11)
- ‘‘The Choice’’, Paul McAuley (Asimov’s 2/11)
- ‘‘A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong’’, K.J. Parker (Subterranean Winter ’11)
- ‘‘Purple’’, Robert Reed (Asimov’s 3/11)
- ‘‘Restoration’’, Robert Shearman (Everyone’s Just So So Special)
In regard to “The Silver Wind,” by Nina Allan I liked it far more than Martin Lewis who gave the story a bit of a roasting. I’m not going to debate Martin’s thought here other than to say that I was more enamoured by the view point character. However, that’s possibly because I’d read the piece as part of a collection where a variant of the POV character features in two earlier stories. In other words, I’m not sure how I would have reacted to the story if I’d read it divorced of the collection in Interzone. I still think I would have enjoyed it because of the high quality of the writing.
The K.J Parker is beautiful under-stated piece of second world fantasy about creative genius, betrayals and revenge, while Rob’s “Restoration” is a brilliant, hilarious fantastical idea tinged with love and sadness.
- ‘‘Younger Women’’, Karen Joy Fowler (Subterranean Summer ’11)
- ‘‘Goodnight Moons’’, Ellen Klages (Life on Mars)
- ‘‘The Paper Menagerie’’, Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)
- ‘‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’’, E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld 4/11)
- “Old Habits”, Nalo Hopkinson (Eclipse Four)
As for the other three, “Goodnight Moons” is a tear jerking piece on space travel and motherhood, “Younger Women” is possibly the greatest vampire YA story ever told while “Old Habits” is a genuinely chilling slice of horror that should have featured on the Locus Recommended Reading List.
*I thought I’d read more novellas but “The Silver Wind”, “The Choice” and “Purple” – which I thought were novellas – are novelettes, at least according to Locus.