I may post about my picks for Best Novella of 2016 as we work our way through the ‘year in review’ period, but for the moment I was pondering what I’d put into my old Best Short Novels series, if I was still editing it for someone today.
After a bit of reflection I came up with the following list. I wasn’t restricted to Hugo length requirements, so one story is actually a long novelette, but this list would still come close to 200,000 words which is about right for the old series.
So, herewith, the fantasy contents for Best Short Novels: 2016.
The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor)
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor)
Every Heart A Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor)
This Census-taker, China Mieville (Del Rey)
The Charge and the Storm, An Owomoyela (Asimov’s)
The Devil You Know, K.J. Parker (Tor)
The Iron Tactician, Alastair Reynolds (Newcon)
The Best Story I Can Manage, Robert Shearman (Five Storeys High)
The Vanishing Kind, Lavie Tidhar (F&SF)
A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor)
It surprises me a little, in this era of digital publishing, that none of these are available to read online.
This week we find ourselves talking about the resurgence of the novella in fantasy and SF, the possible reasons behind it, the changes in recent print magazines Asimov’s and Analog, the question of why short fiction seems to be moving in a digital direction whereas the novel not so much–and then we segue unconvincingly into questions of what gets reviewed and by whom, finally ending up with the problems in trying to find a workable definition of fantasy as compared to science fiction or horror.
As part of the lead up to the publication of Bridging Infinity, Tor.com is reprinting Ken Liu’s terrific story “Seven Birthdays”. There’s more coming soon too, including a limited giveaway! For the moment, though try Ken’s story and consider picking up a copy of the book!
After a week off, we return to discuss just how science fictional the recent American elections are, whether political science fiction has ever had much impact on social attitudes or public policy, what if anything SF has to offer to the disenfranchised, and the representation of women and minorities as characters as well as contributors in recent anthologies like Jonathan’s Bridging Infinity. We also offer some thoughts on the recent World Fantasy Convention, the difficulties World Fantasy seems to be facing in terms of both awards and convention attendance, and whether there are really any professional conventions left in the SF field.
My story deals with a far-future engineering project to drill down into the Sun, for reasons that are explained in the story. But the story has its basis in the present, as the central protagonist is an Indian scientist who makes a critical discovery during her thesis work.
Q: What was the inspiration behind your story?
I wanted to keep very literally to the theme of “bridging”, and that meant some sort of physical structure connecting two points. I kept coming back to James Blish’s short story “The Bridge” about a vast engineering project on (or in) Jupiter, but I wanted to go beyond that to something truly nuts, but just about feasible at the extreme range of present speculation. I wanted to keep away from space elevators and wormholes! I’d read about the solar heliospheric oscillations during my own degree work, and it had always struck with me that there’s a lot we still don’t know about the interior life of stars. I also did some sniffing around about very high temperature materials, and found that creating an alloy that could survive on the surface of the Sun isn’t as mad as it sounds. The other inspiration for the story was drawing a parallel between the sometimes stressful business of defending your thesis work, and an actual interrogation.
Q: What do you believe makes a good science fiction story?
The ideal SF story would be written with a high level of literary craft, with an effective use of voice, viewpoint, structure and so on, perhaps some memorable characterisation, and it would also embed one or more interesting ideas in an original, surprising fashion. The experienced SF reader will be alert to the usual directions such a story might take, so the piece also has to work hard to subvert such expectations – while at the same time not short-changing the less experienced reader. In reality very few SF pieces ever hit all those high notes at once – none of mine ever has – but it’s a good set of objectives to aim for.
Q: What are you working on now? And if people like your story in the book, what other work of yours should they seek out?
I’m trying to nail down the latter part of a new novel, a sequel to my earlier book The Prefect, and which is set in the Revelation Space universe. If people like “Sixteen Questions”, I’d maybe suggest taking a look at my story “A Murmuration”, which also deals with science as a career, although from a rather different perspective.