The Cambridge Geek

2018 Science Fiction/Fantasy Short Story Awards

There are various competitions that attempt to find the best science fiction, fantasy and horror of each year, and I've collated the winners and nominees from what seems to be the major awards in a series of posts (see the very bottom for links to all of them). The requirement for inclusion is that the award ceremony occurs in the current year (as listed in the title), so the post will be updated as they are announced throughout the year.

The awards considered are: Arthur C. Clarke, Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, BSFA, Compton Crook, Dragon, Eugie, Hugo, James Tiptree, Jr., John W. Campbell, Lambda, Locus, Nebula/Andre Norton, Philip K. Dick, Prometheus, Shirley Jackson, Sturgeon and World Fantasy.

This is the post for the short category.

There's two options for viewing them. The first is my ranking, which is wildly subjective and limited to the ones I've read. The second is based on the "score" of each work, with a nomination giving 1 point, and a win giving 1.5 points. Otherwise it's ordered by title. Click the button to view.

My ranking

1: Utopia, LOL? by Jamie Wahls imagines a world in which humanity has been mind uploaded and now lives its entire life in a million universes, administrated by an all-powerful AI, which has just woken one of the few remaining cryogenically frozen humans. He is shown around by Kit, one of the uploaded, who suffers heavily from both ADHD and a little over-exposure to the infinite possibilites of the mindverse. Like being a bird. The best part of this is the dialogue between the three characters, which ranges from the existential to the killbotty. The title delivered. Nebula Read online

2: Sun, Moon, Dust by Ursula Vernon involves Allpa, a humble farmboy, who is a perfect fit for the heroic life granted him by the gift of a magical sword, which contains the three warrior spirits of the title, handed down to him by his dying grandmother. Bit of a shame he doesn't have any interest in fighting, really. A sweet piece of writing about the choice of the simple life over that of a warrior, with some fun characters. Dust is a particular delight. Hugo Read online

3: Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad is a brilliant little tale about the world's only self-aware robot and its discovery of the world of robot anime fanfic. It's both fun and painful, being an accurate representation of fanfic comment threads. Both the good and the bad. Mostly fun because of the robot, though does have no small enjoyment in the subtleties of fanfic community fights. Hugo Locus Nebula Sturgeon Read online

4: The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata is about the futility of building in a world that is slowly winding down. Susannah, the last great architect, is trying to create a monument to mankind in the remnants of its last failed martian colony, before it is killed off by antibiotic resistance, horrific plagues, climate change and that old favourite, war. When someone happens to turn up in the colony. It has a wonderfully vivid description of the bleak marscape, and packs a remarkably powerful emotional punch for its limited opportunities. Hugo Locus - Winner Sturgeon Read online

5: Fire by Elizabeth Hand is a fireside tale, where the fire is provided by the apocalypse. The growing proliferation of drones has allowed terrorists to start "megafires" that destroy entire cities and are beyond the capability of man to put out. It's a rambling tale, intentionally, giving an impression of people attempting to find some meaning in the flames. Not much happens, but it is written in such a convincing manner that I didn't mind. It does a lot of fascinating world-building in a very little space. Locus Amazon UK Amazon US

6: Sidewalks by Maureen McHugh follows a few days in the life of a speech therapist who has to assess someone unable to communicate in English. Or at least, English as we know. It's a sneaky bit of science fiction wrapped up in an interesting discussion of linguistics, and though it's not terribly eventful, it was sufficiently nerdy for me to rather enjoy it. Sturgeon Read online

7: Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim tells the story of spring-wound mechanical people who live out their lives in the house of The Maker, each of them being wound each day with a fixed number of turns. They must carefully balance their use of the potential energy given to them, to prevent them running out and being left abandoned on whatever task they attempt. It's almost a "slice-of-life" piece, following one toy through its life, with both a bit of heartwarming and sadness, and a pleasant metaphor to the fragility of life. Hugo Locus Nebula World Fantasy Read online

8: Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias S. Buckell is partly science fiction heist, partly philosophical consideration on brain/mind differences. Our protagonist robot, shortly after a space battle discovers a CEO on the ship's hull, and finds itself three lawyered into assisting. It's an upload, and has a very dim view of the CEO's still human body. A bit unfairly in my mind. Evidently I'm not a dualist. Eugie Locus Sturgeon Read online

9: Infinite Love Engine by Violet Allen charts Aria Astra's dash through a mad space future, to stop the addictive mind-controlling love of Zarzak from taking over the entire universe and turning people into slaves. Bit of an odd one in that it's impressively psychedelic, with a fun spread of alien beasties and some raygun enthusiasm, but the fact that it's all told in "Valley Speak" turned me off. Eugie Read online

10: Dear Sarah by Nancy Kress is a quick piece about the effect that alien diplomacy has on the poorest people in society. The Leckinites provide free energy technology, which wipes out huge sectors of blue collar industry, as well as providing automation that eliminates most manual labour. As a result, you get a lot of anti-alien terrorism, which our protagonist joins the army to prevent. I can't decide if this was trying to be about diplomacy, family dynamics or big business. Locus Amazon UK Amazon US

11: Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue by Charlie Jane Anders is a horror short, that imagines a world in which those who have transitioned their sex to match their gender, have their minds transferred across to corpses which match their original body. It's a dystopia, obviously. The story watches one of these transfers, but also throws in a bit of gender politics, revenge porn and childhood memories. James Tiptree, Jr. James Tiptree, Jr. Locus Sturgeon - Winner Amazon UK Amazon US

12: Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience TM by Rebecca Roanhorse is one of those stories that are a bit too close to reality. It imagines a world in which VR is even more common than this one, and is frequently used for a bit of cultural tourism, with our protagonist playing American Indian guide to WASPs who want to connect with a heritage different to their own. Until he finds one who's a bit too keen. And so begins a neat bit of horror about identity and replacement. Lot of ambiguity, though felt like it needed a better wrap up. Hugo - Winner Locus Nebula - Winner Sturgeon World Fantasy Read online

13: We Who Live in the Heart by Kelly Robson is a bio-utopia future which sees people of the future either sheltering underground in cramped cities, carefully rationing every resource, or living in the sky in some sort of odd biological machine/alien, as sort of future hippies. Like the creature of the tale, it didn't seem to know where it was going, and only had a tweak of interest towards the end of it. Sturgeon Read online

14: Persephone of the Crows by Karen Joy Fowler is a tale of changelings, but seen through the eyes of the child. Polly's parents are replaced after a car crash, and nothing is the same again. Doesn't really do much with its premise, as the changeling parents, the most interesting bit by miles only get a couple of paragraphs each. Locus Read online

15: Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde is a rambling wander through a horror museum, with a slowly dissolving viewpoint character. It's lyrical, and potentially has a few interesting things hidden in it given the intended disability visibility metaphor, but the lack of anything ever happening means it's rather boring. Eugie - Winner Hugo Nebula World Fantasy Read online

16: The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard) by Matthew Kressel is a bit too self-indulgent for my liking, watching the last few weeks of the far future's last author, who writes, prints and binds his own books. With the help of an apprentice to show that writing won't actually ever stop. Doesn't say much of interest beyond "isn't writing cool?" Eugie Nebula Read online

Tagged: Awards Literature Short story

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