I've been binging a bit on short fiction in the past few days. Between K. Tempest Bradford's weekly column on io9, and the new source for short fic recs, SFEditorsPicks (on Twitter and Facebook), in addition to all the standard review sites (Lois Tilton's short fic reviews at Locus, for example) there are lots of leads available to good short sff pieces. Here are some of the ones I thought sounded interesting.
"Damage" by David D. Levine, January 21, 2015, Tor.comhttp://www.tor.com/2015/01/21/damage-david-levine/
An impressive and engaging milsf offering, the story's narrator is an AI hosted in the one-man combat ship JB6847½ (known affectionately as Scraps to the technician who assembled and services her) - a ship cobbled together from the remains of two crippled vessels, with the memories of both. Like other ships, she has been imprinted on her pilot, an iron-jawed and laconic warrior who knows himself to be the best pilot in the system and dreams of heroic destiny. Fighting on the losing side of a war between Earth and the Belt colonies, they are sent on a final mission which troubles Scraps greatly, although her beloved Captain accepts his orders with relish. In my opinion, this story is everything that 2015 Hugo Nominee "Turncoat" by Steve Rzasa should have been, but wasn't.
"These Were the Transitional Years" by Zak Smith, September 10, 2015, Motherboardhttp://motherboard.vice.com/read/these-were-the-transitional-years
Very much reminiscent of the 1970s New Wave consumerist dystopias, this story provides a glimpse of a future where the means of satisfying every urge is at hand - but human relationships have been lost. Adult sexual situations and language.
"The Deepest Rift" by Ruthanna Emrys, June 24, 2015, Tor.comhttp://www.tor.com/2015/06/24/the-deepest-rift-ruthanna-emrys/
In the deepest rift in all the inhabited worlds, a winged species known as mantas create sculptures from their own body secretions - but are they sentient, and do the sculptures constitute a language? Four scientists think the answer is yes, but their research so far is inconclusive. The story explores communication on many levels - within the team, one member of which is deaf and speaks in sign, between the team members and the AI that has come to determine whether their research should continue, among the mantas. Thought-provoking.
"The Sill and the Dike" by Vajra Chandrasekera, September 2015, Nightmare Magazinehttp://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/the-sill-and-the-dike/
In this story about the personal and cultural consequences of war, the unnamed narrator/protagonist is the only person out of an entire family to survive a long and bloody war with unspecified "aliens" who came to steal land but in the end "bled red just like people." Well-crafted and memorable.
"The End of the War" by Django Wexler, June, Asimov's Magazine
A tightly plotted milsf-themed novelette. In this space-living civilization, humanity lives in two vast Arks - Circea and Minoa - which are at war with each other. This is a micro-war, based on competition for resources, as salvage operators from the two sides, singly or in small groups, battle over the bodies of dead ships; the winner takes all, but the loser usually survives to fight again. For the operators, this is more of a job than a war, and communication between those on both sides is common. In many ways, I was reminded of jousts or melees between knights in the medieval romances, who adopt a code of honor in which one side, after demonstrating superiority in the field, allows the defeated opponent the chance to retire with honour. Over the course of several encounters, the protagonist, a Circean named Myr, establishes such a relationship with the Minoan operator Gar, one that plays a significant role in determining the outcome of Myr's final mission - its goal, to end the war.
"The Closest Thing to Animals" by Sofia Samatar, September 2015, Fireside Magazine Issue #27http://www.firesidefiction.com/issue27/chapter/the-closest-thing-to-animals/
Always a handmaiden, never a person of significance in her own right - this is how S., the otherwise nameless protagonist of the story, sees herself. Always living close to art, to fame, she has a gift for finding creative people just before they come into the public eye - but her relationships never seem to last. Desperate to be known and seen - and to know and see herself - as an artist yet lacking the trust to create, wrapt in envy and blame, she latches onto another artist, Hodan Mahmoud. In her quest to make Hodan a star, to attach herself more permanently to greatness - not realising that Hodan has been through that mill already - she has at last the chance to confront the things that have held her back. The story is timeless, the setting profoundly sfnal, with oblique references to quarantines that suggest a past, partial apocalypse of sorts. Deeply moving, profoundly human.
"Chasing Comets" by Brian Trent, September 2015, Crossed Genres Issue #33http://crossedgenres.com/magazine/033-chasing-comets/
A powerful story about love, aspirations, possibilities, grief and guilt. A young boy, Sammy, longs to grow up to be an astronaut. His father encourages the dream, but at what cost? To say more would be to say too much.