I’m not opposed to awards per se–they’re a formalized pat on the back, a “good job, well done,” and when I disagree, well, I’m allowed to. I’m allowed to wander off and pat someone else’s back instead. But when I’ve been talking about short fiction in 2015, it’s not for that purpose. It’s for the purpose of–and follow me here, this is going to get complicated–talking about short fiction. Because I think talking about short fiction is inherently a good thing. Specifically, pointing out things that are nifty is inherently a good thing.
So narrowing down to 5 or 10 or some other number–8 is my favorite number, it’s the smallest cube, yay 8!–but why should I like 8 things and not 7 or 9 or more? Turns out it’s more. I’m putting them here now because short stories have a tendency to flit past if no one jumps up and down and points at them. Because even the people most invested in them forget titles. Because I like to talk about short stories. Some of you are really into the awards thing. That’s fine; you do you. What I did in 2015–what I will continue to do in 2016–is point at the short fiction I like, and hope that some of you like some of it too. I make no pretense of reading everything. That’s a trap. I just read some stuff. And then jump up and down and point when I like it.
I think that one of the least enlightening discussions possible about a story is: “Is this the best story of this calendar year?” I would rather do: what does this remind me of? What is this story doing that I would like to see more of? What is special, what is familiar, what made me laugh or cry or write to someone I love? Best is flat and unidirectional and boring. I want stories to be stories and send out roots and runners and blossoms in all sorts of directions in my heart and mind, not send the little meter up to ring the bell. So okay: stories you can get to online:
Soteriology and Stephen Greenwood by Julia August (Journal of Unlikely Academia).
Fire Rises, by Alec Austin (Beneath Ceaseless Skies).
Monkey King, Faerie Queen, by Zen Cho (Kaleidotrope).
Further North, by Kay Chronister (Clarkesworld).
Hold-Time Violations by John Chu (Tor.com).
Wild Things Go to Go Free, by Heather Clitheroe (BCS).
20/20, by Arie Coleman (Strange Horizons).
The Coup in Elfland, by Michael J. DeLuca (Mythic Delirium).
The Half Dark Promise, by Malon Edwards (Shimmer).
The Deepest Rift, by Ruthanna Emrys (Tor.com).
Sun’s East, Moon’s West, by Merrie Haskell (Lightspeed).
Solder and Seam by Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed)
The Lamps Thereof are Fire and Flames, by Rosamund Hodge (Uncanny).
By Degrees and Dilatory Time, by S.L. Huang (Strange Horizons).
A Photograph of Bones, by Robin Husen (Daily SF).
Here Is My Thinking on a Situation That Affects Us All, by Rahul Kanakia (Lightspeed).
Midnight Hour, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny).
Cat Pictures Please, by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld).
So Much Cooking, by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld).
Meshed, by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld).
Court Bindings, by Karalynn Lee (BCS).
The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, by Usman Malik (Tor.com).
City of Salt, by Arkady Martine (Strange Horizons).
Ginga, by Daniel Jose Older (Tor.com).
A Beautiful Memory, by Shannon Peavey (Apex).
The Snake-Oil Salesman and the Prophet’s Head, by Shannon Peavey (BCS).
Remembery Day, by Sarah Pinsker (Apex).
Glaciers Made You, by Gabby Reed (Strange Horizons).
Spider’s Ink, by Jason S. Ridler (BCS).
The Closest Thing to Animals by Sofia Samatar (Fireside).
Those by Sofia Samatar (Uncanny).
The Girl With Golden Hair, by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (BCS).
Crazy Rhythm, by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed).
The Ways of Walls and Words, by Sabrina Vourvoulias (Tor.com).
Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud, by Fran Wilde (BCS).
Find Me, by Isabel Yap (Apex).
So that was more than five, and wow am I glad I’m not awards-focused. That was friends and acquaintances and total strangers, science fiction and fantasy and interstitialish things. That was just the stuff I can link to. And you know what? I’m pretty sure I missed stuff. Tell me what I missed. Tell me what you loved this year in short fiction. Because wow, guys. Look at the work going on in this field, just the stuff that I managed to get to and read and swoon over. Look at what we can do. For all that I’ve occasionally joked that it would be hard to pick a collection of the Year’s Best Sofia Samatar–for all the people I know in this field, some on this list–look at the people I’d never read before up there and the cool stuff they knocked me over with.
Let’s do more. More of us, more ideas, more awesome stories. We can. C’mon. Let’s.