Short Stories #2
"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love," Rachel Swirsky, Mar 5, 2013, Apex Magazinehttp://www.apex-magazine.com/if-you-were-a-dinosaur-my-love/
And yes, this is the first time I've read the short story that all the Sad Puppies hated. And it is a beautiful, and harrowing piece of fiction. To convey so very much, such complex feelings and so much backstory so compellingly in so few words, leaving the reader watching in growing horror and sorrow as the terrible truth unveils itself and the protagonist's thoughts, motives and state of mind become clear and understandable, is the height of the storyteller's art and craft.
I know that there have been endless discussions about whether this story belonged on an sf award ballot. I agree that it is neither classic science fiction nor classic fantasy, but more and more sf is taken to mean speculative fiction, and indeed, the whole of the story is a science fictional speculation in response to an act of horror - which also fits under the umbrella of sf - following which the protagonist can only drift into fantasy to find a way to express herself. The story is about a person thinking, surviving, through sfnal tropes and images. That's good enough for me.
"Even the Mountains Are Not Forever," Laurie Tom, Mar 2 2015, Strange Horizonshttp://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150302/mountains-f.shtml
"Every child knew the story of Kunchen and how she had led her people millennia ago to a snowy world so cold that it was only possible to live in the mountainous equator. They named it Dunxu, and here they could live apart from others, to be their own people. They brought with them their prayer flags and their sheep and their yaks, and dotted the white mountains with color."
In an sfnal take on the Tibetan concept of perpetually reincarnating lamas who guide the people from their accumulated store of wisdom, the people of Dunxu have their Kunchen, who is wakened from cryosleep every ten years to walk among her people and advise its leaders. Only the most senior among them know that even with living only a few months out of every decade, eventually the Kunchen grows old and a new one must take her place. The story concerns itself with an aging Kunchen seeking her successor, and a young woman who proposes something new in this process. I enjoyed the "feel" and setting of the story, and the elements of spirituality and destiny woven into the reality and the myth of the Kunchen.
"Vacui Magia," L. S. Johnson, Jan 5, 2015, Strange Horizonshttp://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150105/VacuiMagia-f.shtml
The title of this story can be translated as "the magic of emptiness" or "the magic of loss." It takes the form of a grimoire entry, a lesson in the making of and dealing with realistic-looking child golems, but embedded in the instructions - both practical and theoretical - is the story of a middle-aged childless witch caring for her dying mother, who sorrows that she will never see a granddaughter. The protagonist uses the magic to create for her mother the illusion of a granddaughter, a magic that is essentially empty because the golem child does not, and can not, be a true person. However, this is not just a story about grief and loss, but also about how living through that loss can bring healing, freedom, and new directions - the magic of loss that also refills the soul. I found this story to be both moving and full of meaning.
"Wind," Naomi Kritzer, April 7, 2015, Apex Magazinehttp://www.apex-magazine.com/wind/
Two young girls make a covenant to each other, one that they believe will give both the futures they have always longed for, never suspecting that the consequences will destroy their dreams - and their friendship. In the end, only one of them will find a way to the future she hoped for as a child, thanks to an unexpected gift. A well-written and enjoyable story.
"Cat Pictures Please," Naomi Kritzer, Jan 2015, Clarkesworld Magazinehttp://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_01_15/
A quite delightful story about an AI who likes cat pictures and wants to be useful in ways that go beyond its original programming. Beneath the simple narrative lies an exploration of the ways in which humans often act against their own interests, which raises questions about whether it is better for people to continue muddling in their imperfect and illogical fashion, or to allow a beneficent entity with access to all our personal information to make choices for us.