Nebula Finalists 2018: Short Fiction

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Award season is here and I am expanding my review coverage to include the Nebulas this year. I really just enjoyed reading the Hugo finalists so much, that I had another awards list, so here we are!

Also, this is my 70th post in the lifetime of my blog, which is crazy to think about.

Anyway, I’m structuring this like the Hugo posts from last year and giving short reviews to the short fiction, novelette, and novella lists. I will be doing standalone review posts for the novel category. And of course, I’ll have a round up post for the entire Nebula awards, once I get through all of them. Hopefully that won’t take as long as my Hugo post(I still have two more novels to read to finish that one. Oops!)

Anyway, without delaying any further, here is the short fiction finalists! A rather strong bunch of entries, I felt. Enjoy!

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18) 5 out of 5 stars

If I could get more fantasy-esque alt American history that is centered on either the Africans brought over or Native Americans, that would be excellent, but for now I think I will be content with this story by Clark. Told similar in style to a historical account, it paints a rich fantastical picture of what the early British Colony in the New World would have looked like with magic.

I loved the prose and the style of this story and while it comes to a rather quiet conclusion, each “account” of each tooth’s owner is startling robust in world building and vital feeling. I couldn’t help but keep reading as I went.

I’ve read Clark’s writing before, but this cements that I have to keep my eyes peeled for more.

And Yet” by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 3-4/18) 4 out of 5 stars

This was a strikingly personal, but intense story. The second person is a narration that has been growing on me for a while and it seems to shape this narrative for even more impact. I couldn’t help but feel pulled in and at the same time feel the wistful longing of the protagonist. I loved the twists and turns and family drama. The protagonist really becomes a cornerstone of the story and it all comes together for a full arc by the end. Recommended.

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/6/18) 4 out of 5 stars

This is a wonderful little tale about the inherent magic of reading and a fun homage to libraries the source of that magic. The idea of librarians being “witches” was a very fun concept and seeing them do some endearing and heart warming things was a nice spin. The story of a librarian watching over a boy, who comes from a rather tumultuous home has a familiar feel, but it is all the same a timeless one and gets new life with Harrow’s retelling.

The Court Magician” Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed 1/18) 3 out of 5 stars

This was a tragic tale of an orphan, who thought the grass was greener if he could only “make it.” Yet, what happens when you take on a power that extracts a terrible cost? All told from the orphan’s mentor’s perspective this read as a fabulism, but don’t let that stop you. I love Pinsker’s style of writing, but I was expecting more “umph” from this one as a whole. The ending just did not click for me.

“Interview for the End of the World” by Rhett C. Bruno (Bridge Across the Stars) (anthology) 4 out of 5 stars

Not a bad little aside about how various people would deal with staring down the end of the world. The idea of choosing people and having them “merit” seats on a one way get away from the apocalypse doesn’t sound like an easy story to write, but Bruno managed to pull this off. I enjoyed Trass’ character, and while the story tended to veer into overt sentimentality and melodrama, it was still well executed and told in a complete arc.

Personally, I love the idea of building ark ships and heading out to colonize another world, so this story was a no-brainer for me to enjoy. I wish the story did have to end on such a note, but given the brevity of the piece, it fits and in some ways, it still ended on a good note.

“Going Dark” by Richard Fox (Backblast Area Clear) anthology 3 out of 5 stars

This was a pulpy power armor military sci fi and very different than the rest of the offerings for nominations. This had all everything, from gun fights to explosions to brutal killings.

Yet, at the core of this, we have a touching story of a man, who is in command and how he deals with the loss of every single one of his men. Keeps conflict in perspective and this was a pretty decent little story.

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