written by David Steffen
Hello! This is one of those posts where I declare what is eligible for speculative fiction awards (such as the Hugo and Nebula and Locus) and in what category from Diabolical Plots offerings. In past years I’ve also included fiction that I wrote that was published elsewhere, but alas, this year I have no original published speculative fiction of my own. The closest thing I have I published right here, titled “The Horowitz Method: A Metrics-Based Approach to Rank-Ordering Musical Groups”, but while it fills me with delight and I would love for you to read it I think it would be a stretch to call it speculative fiction.
Diabolical Plots itself is eligible for the Hugo Award for the Best Semiprozine.
Editor (Short Form)
David Steffen is eligible for Editor, Short Form for the Hugos, for both Diabolical Plots and The Long List Anthology.
Locus has a category for publisher, which would be for Diabolical Plots, LLC, for the Diabolical Plots publication, Long List Anthology (and Submission Grinder?).
Best Reprint Anthology
For the Locus award!
Websites that relate somehow to science fiction and fantasy are eligible for related work. So I believe Diabolical Plots as a whole is eligible.
Individual works of nonfiction are definitely eligible so individual pieces on Diabolical Plots, whether reviews or otherwise, are eligible.
And The Submission Grinder may be eligible as well! People ask me every year what they can nominate it for. (I think it would be very unlikely to win since that is a tool for writers and Hugos are voted by broader group but it is probably eligible anyway.
This one might be a bit of a stretch but I have been chronicling progress on The Mighty Samurai cross stitch on the DP Twitter feed which seems to be a favorite of followers.
Diabolical Plots, LLC published two commissioned illustrations this year.
One was the cover of Diabolical Plots Year Five from Galen Dara. You can find her website here. This individual artwork would be eligible for the Chesney Award. Galen has previously won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist but she now qualifies under the Best Professional Artist category (and has been nominated for that category as well).
The second commissioned illustration this year was the cover of The Long List Anthology Volume Five from Amanda Makepeace (whose award eligibility post you can find here). Amanda won the Chesney Award last year for an original Diabolical Plots commissioned cover art. Her individual pieces are eligible for the Chesney Award, and she as an artist is eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist. You can see her own eligibility post here.
All of the original fiction published by Diabolical Plots falls into the “Short Story” category as defined by both the Hugo and Nebula and Locus awards (meaning that each is under 7500 words apiece). All of the eligible stories are listed here with the announcement of Year Five fiction, and can be purchased in one convenient ebook package. Please note that this is a complete list of the eligible fiction published by Diabolical Plots this year–the stories published on the site between January 2019 and March 2019 are not eligible because they were first published as part of the Diabolical Plots Year Four anthology published in 2018.
For the sake of convenience, here is a list of the eligible short stories with links and brief excerpts:
“Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey
In a generational shift that some claim threatens the fabric of existence and the sanity of all humanity, surveys show that worship of the Elder Dark is at a record low for one particular group—millennials.
“One Part Per Billion” by Samantha Mills
There were already two Irene Boswells onboard and a third in the making.
Radiation poured out of the Omaha Device in an endless stream of buttery yellow light, and Irene (the Irene in the containment room) knew they were doomed. But she slapped patch after patch over the ruinous crack in the device’s shell because she hadn’t come twenty billion miles to sit and wait for death.
“What the Sea Reaps, We Must Provide” by Eleanor R. Wood
The ball bounces off the tide-packed sand and Bailey leaps to catch it with lithe grace and accuracy. He returns to deposit it at my feet for another go. It’s nearly dusk; the beach is ours on this January evening. It stretches ahead, the rising tide low enough to give us ample time to reach the sea wall.
“Dogwood Stories” by Nicole Givens Kurtz
“Late bloomers have the prettiest blooms,” Sadie’s momma said, after she tapped her on the head with the comb. “So, stop squirmin’.”
“It’s too tight.” Sadie winced, sucking in air to offset the pain. Her scalp burned like someone had set fire to it. She put her hands in her lap and tried to weather the storm, her hands rubbing each other to soothe the pain.
“Tenderheaded. That’s all.” Her momma pinched off a section of hair, and began another braid.
“The Ceiling of the World” by Nicole Crucial
This is important. When Margaret moved to the city, you see, the office she worked in was on the top floor, five stories up. The train took twenty-five minutes to travel between Bleek Street—where her office was—and Swallow Avenue—where she lived. She took a room in a basement, and that basement room was ten feet below the ground, and through the eighteen-inch windows at the top of the room, daylight filtered in. The reassuring whisper-hum of the underground trains tickled the soles of her feet every few minutes.
“Bootleg Jesus” by Tonya Liburd
Out where rock outcroppings yearn to become mountains, there was a town cursed with no magic.
In this town, there was a family.
In this family, there was a girl.
She was nine, almost ten, Mara. Childhood hadn’t completely lifted its veil. She had an older brother, Ivan, who was fourteen, and whose voice was changing. Elsewhere, puberty would have signaled all sorts of preparations – acceptance into a special group home as much for his safety as for the general public – while his Unique Gift manifested. Watchfulness. Guidance. Training.
“Little Empire of Lakelore” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires
All the world followed pretty much the same guidelines for international trade and travel. That’s a very big gloss, but let’s say it was true. And it was, for the most part.
There was however, one exception. It was Little Empire of Lakelore. Little Empire of Lakelore had to be qualified by the word little, because simply calling it the Empire of Lakelore would be a misnomer. You see, there was nothing imperial about Lakelore itself, except for its air of superiority, which was manufactured much like the actual air itself. The air had to be manufactured and pumped out, and it wasn’t too costly to do so, given the marginal cost of opening a few more factories for that purpose.
“Lies of the Desert Fathers” by Stewart Moore
The Abbot’s eyes stared up at the ceiling. The reflections of blue-robed angels flew across his gray irises. Not much blood had spattered on his face. His chest was another story. The stains had finally stopped spreading from the rents in his brown wool robe. I noticed a smear near the hem of my long skirt where I stood too close.
“The Inspiration Machine” by K.S. Dearsley
“I’ve got it!” Barnes leapt out of his chair and knocked hot synth-coffee over his work interface and paunch. Perhaps that was why the idea vanished. By the time he had swabbed away the mess, the brilliant flash of creativity was no more than the memory of something that had almost been within his grasp. He needed a few breaths of bottled fresh sea air–his last multi-million global craze–to boost his brainpower.
“Colonized Bodies, Dessicated Souls” by Nin Harris
The PPMS had cordoned off Jalan Mandailing. They had guards posted along the banks of Sungai Chua. But it was not enough. The battles ranged from midnight till the cock’s crow and the call for prayers every dawn while the sun painted delicate fingers of rose across a yellow ombre sky. In the daytime, the blistering heat of the day kept the undead under protective cover. Even in their present state the British could barely handle the heat of the tropics. Penghulu Udin discovered he was exceptionally good at killing the undead. He could spear them, decapitate them, blow them up or use the bamboo blowgun the way his Dayak ancestors had before they had travelled to Selangor to build a new life by marrying into the Javanese community. He learned how to construct bombs from the materials they’d scavenged from the army barracks. He’d trained a small army that grew larger, and larger.
“Empathy Bee” by Forrest Brazeal
I’m at the microphone for the first round of the 32nd Annual National Empathy Bee, and I can’t feel a thing.
“Dear Parents, Your Child is Not the Chosen One” by P.G. Galalis
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Goodblood,
Thank you for expressing your concerns about Rodney’s First Term grade. Please understand that the highest mark of “Chosen One” is exceedingly rare, even among our exceptional student body here at Avalon. Rodney’s grade of “Stalwart” is neither a mistake nor cause for concern, but a performance about which you and he can both be proud.
“Fresh Dates” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires
SFX, International Terminal
The scuttling of a million feet before him, the collective aspirations to get somewhere resounded in the marble hall, while he stared at his stubby chin in the glass. He rubbed a growing five o’clock shadow with a soft hand. “Paging passenger Carl Rogers. Please come to Gate 48B. Paging passenger Karl Rogers. Please come to Gate 48B.” The near-garbled voice issuing forth from the speakers was far from honeyed, but there was something sweet about the announcement and the cadence of the passenger’s name. At that moment, he would do anything to be Karl Rogers, to have such a short three syllabled name, so he could be rushing about like the many others rushing about. Needing to get somewhere and feeling the inadequacy of bipedalism in hauling body and material possessions to reach that end.
“Tracing an Original Thought” by Novae Caelum
It’s like this: if the world has a food shortage, you eliminate hunger by leaving the planet, taking all your animals and plants in your genetic ark, and finding a new planet on which to grow and flourish.
It’s also like this: if the world has a distribution of wealth crisis, you eliminate poverty by never having elites in your new society. At least for a little while. At least, that was the plan.
And if the world has a gender crisis, an inability for equality, you eliminate gender.
“Save the God Damn Pandas” by Anaea Lay
My job? Purity shaming pandas. It’s great. You loom over a living, breathing, talking embodiment of the international fixation on world peace and you shout, “Why won’t you fuck, you lazy motherfucker?” And then you play them some porn.
Okay, it’s not actually like that.
Really, my job kind of sucks.
“Consider the Monsters” by Beth Cato
Jakayla crouched in front of her dark closet. She hadn’t turned on the light because that was an awfully rude thing to do when trying to talk to the monster hidden inside.
“You gotta listen to me,” she whispered. “The news is saying really bad things, like rocks are gonna fall out of the sky and a lot of people are gonna die. You can’t stay in my closet. You gotta go to the basement. There’s dark spaces down there for you to hide in. I won’t tell no one you gone there.”
“The Train to Wednesday” by Steven Fischer
Charlie Slawson sat alone in the transit station, watching a set of empty train tracks and wondering why the train was late. Truth be told, he hadn’t known until just then that temporal trains even could be late.
“Consequences of a Statistical Approach Towards a Utilitarian Utopia: A Selection of Potential Outcomes” by Matt Dovey
Maximised Total Happiness
Michelle smiled, exhausted, as her baby’s cry filled the hospital room. The lights above her were harsh and cold, and the sheets beneath her were tangled and scratchy, soaked in her sweat and stinking of iodine, but none of that mattered against such a beautiful sound. She heard it so rarely—just once a year.
“The Problem From Jamaica Plain” by Marie L. Vibbert
I was waiting for the teakettle to boil, and the office wasn’t due to open for, oh let’s say three minutes. The phone blinked and I considered not answering, what with those three minutes of leisure ahead of me, but I needed every client I could get. I put on my phone voice and chirped, “Jasmine Alexa, Attorney at law.”
The voice on the other end trembled with fear and flat, Bostonian vowels. “I’m not shuh, but Ah think I might have killed someone.”
“This is What the Boogeyman Looks Like” by T.J. Berg
This is what the boogeyman looks like.
It has white eyes with no pupils and no irises. Just white all the way through. But it can see you. So I must not fall asleep as I wait outside this closet door in an empty room, in an empty house with a derelict For Sale sign in front of it, everything smaller than I remember, baseball bat gripped in my hands.
“Beldame” by Nickolas Furr
I never had a driver’s license, you see. Instead I was born blessed with epilepsy. The doctors said it was bad form to put a two-ton vehicle into the hands of a young man who could seize at any time, medication be damned. Grand mal, tonic-clonic—whatever you wanted to call it, it was the big one, and I grew up afraid to be responsible for running off the road and killing someone because of it. I tell you this simply to explain that I was completely at the mercy of the bus line when we stopped at the small town in Kansas where all the houses faced west and I met the whispery old crone who sat at the intersection of two worlds.
“Gorilla in the Streets” by Mari Ness
He’s hairy. He grunts a lot. He can be – there’s no kind way to put this – a little clumsy, and even his best friends say his table manners could use a little work.
But at barely the age of 30, he’s become Wall Street’s best performing hedge fund manager, with an estimated fortune of $36 billion, and with bankers, CEOs and even – it’s rumored – a United States president and several prime ministers jumping at the mere twitch of his finger.
Despite being a – there’s no way to put this politely – a gorilla.
“Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau
The water towers never showed up on film. That should have been a sign. In the before times, there were water towers on every rooftop. They were highly visible, distinct from the rest of the landscape, cylindrical bodies with conical heads and long spindly legs. Maybe if we hadn’t been so busy whining about work and finding the perfect brand of deodorant and wondering if that cute barista was flirting with us (They weren’t. It is literally their job to smile and draw hearts in foam and have perfect hair. We as a society need to get over ourselves) we would have asked ourselves why the water towers didn’t want us to see them represented in the movies. Maybe if we hadn’t sharpened those not-thinking skills by not thinking about global warming and drone strikes and the asbestos in the ceiling that coated our hair like dandruff, we would have asked the right questions before it was too late.
“The Cliff of Hands” by Joanne Rixon
“Lhálali’s bloody viscera,” Eešan cursed. She searched the cliff face for a hold and found nothing. Finally she spotted a thread-thin crack and wedged her wingtip claw in it so she could reach upward with her stubby grasping-hands.
“Watch out,” Aušidh said. “If you fall now you’ll get hurt, won’t you?” She dipped in a little swoop less than a winglength away from Eešan in the air. The shadow of her wide membranous wings rippled across the uneven stone and the little burst of wind ruffled the sparse black fur on Eešan’s back.
“The Eat Me Drink Me Challenge” by Chris Kuriata
The first YouTube video received over seven million hits before being taken down.
A shaky camera held by a giggling friend captured a teenage boy standing in a well-tended backyard. Dressed in cargo shorts, he stared solemnly down the lens before announcing, “I’m Shyam Rangaratnam, and this is the Eat Me Drink Me Challenge.”
After taking a deep breath and a dramatic pause—as all on-line daredevils do before embarking on their potentially painful stunt—Shyam broke the seal on the familiar purple vial, and emptied the liquid onto his tongue.
“The Old Ones, Great and Small” by Rajiv Mote
School’s out, and everybody wants to see the Great Old Ones: the line into the Miskatonic Zoo doubles back and winds out the gates. The American and Massachusetts flags barely flutter above the gate, and the sun today is merciless in a cloudless sky. I ask my grandchildren, Caleb and Cody, if they wouldn’t rather go to a museum or park, catch a ball game, or go anywhere at all less crowded, but they won’t be swayed. The zoo has been closed for renovations for two years now, and they want to see the Great Old Ones in their new, “natural” habitats.