The Best of Lightspeed/Fantasy Podcast 2016

written by David Steffen

Lightspeed Magazine is the award-nominated science fiction magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, and their podcastis  produced by the excellent Skyboat Media.  They publish about half of the stories they publish in text.  They published 52 stories in 2016.

This year marked the publication of their People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction special issue (guest-edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Kristine Ong Muslim), published in Lightspeed, as well as the People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy (guest-edited by Daniel José Older), published as a special revival issue of Fantasy Magazine (which is otherwise subsumed by Lightspeed in most other respects).

The stories eligible for the upcoming Hugo/Nebula award season are marked with an asterisk (*).

The List

1. “The Venus Effect” by Joseph Allen Hill*
Metafictional story trying to write science fiction adventures of Apollo and The Girl From Venus in various formats.  Tragic and fitting, told in a compelling way.

2.  “Not By Wardrobe, Tornado, Or Looking Glass” by Jeremiah Tolbert*
When everyone seems to be finding their own personal portal to their own personal wonderlands, Louisa awaits her turn.

3.  “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Death: 0” by Caroline M. Yoachim*
Written as a fun pulpy choose-your-own-adventure story.

4.  “5×5” by Jilly Dreadful*
Summer camp with mad scientist types.

5.  “The One Who Isn’t” by Ted Kosmatka*
Stories within stories, and you have to piece together what is happening as it goes.  Interesting, compelling, well done.

Honorable Mentions

“Fifty Shades of Grays” by Steven Barnes*

“Double Time” by John Chu

“The Lives of Riley” by Sean Williams*

 

 

 

 

Continue from “Wednesday’s Story” on page 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start at The Siren Son and go back from there

My Hugo Ballot 2014

The voting deadline for the Hugo Awards is tomorrow, July 31st, and I’ve read as much of the Hugo content as I’m going to have time for. So, the time has come for me to cast my ballot and put awards aside until next year. As I’ve done the last couple years, I’ve publicly shared what my ballot is going to look like, as kind of a final section of my Hugo review that is kind of an overarching look at what I thought of the categories. I didn’t read work in all the categories, so I’ve abstained from voting in those that I had no familiarity with and left them off the ballot.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with how the voting system works, it used an instant runoff scheme which allows you to rank all of your choices. First, they count everyone’s first choice. If no one gets more than half the votes, then the lowest ranked one in that scheme is eliminated, and anyone who chose that one as their first choice then has their 2nd choice tallied instead. And so on until there is a clear winner. It is possible to vote for “No Award” which you do if you would rather no one win at all than for the remaining ones to win, and in the end if too many ranked No Award above the eventual vote-winner, then no award is given.

 

Best Novel

  1. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  2. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  3. Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK) (will post review on July 30)
  4. Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  5. No Award

I also reviewed Larry Correia’s Warbound here but ranked it below No Award. I didn’t get a copy of Neptune’s Brood until quite late in the game. I won’t finish it before the deadline but I’ve read far enough to get an overall impression to rank it here. I originally planned to post this ballot on July 30, but decided to post my partial review of Neptune’s Brood on that day to give me a couple more days of reading.

 

Best Novella

  1. “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  2. “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  3. No Award

I reviewed this year’s Novella category here for more details.

 

Best Novelette

  1. “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
  2. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  3. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
  4. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Short Story

  1. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
  2. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Related Work

  1. “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

 

Best Graphic Story

  1. The Meathouse Man, adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
  2. Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  3. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  1. Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  2. Gravity, written by Alfonso CuarÃ’ n & JonÃ’ s CuarÃ’ n, directed by Alfonso CuarÃ’ n (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  4. Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  5. Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  1. Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  2. No Award

Game of Thrones is awesome, and that was one of the best episodes in the series so far. I haven’t seen the rest of the category, but I am tired of episodes of Dr. Who dominating the ballot. There ARE other worthwhile things being published in SF, people. I’d rather Dr. Who would not be on the ballot or win anymore, so I’m voting accordingly. I haven’t seen Orphan Black, don’t know anything about it–so I don’t want to vote for it with no knowledge, but to vote No Award above Dr. Who episodes there’s nothing to do but lump Orphan Black in with them.

 

Best Editor, Short Form

  1. John Joseph Adams
  2. Neil Clarke
  3. Sheila Williams

 

Best Professional Artist

  1. Dan Dos Santos
  2. Julie Dillon
  3. John Picacio
  4. John Harris
  5. Galen Dara

I based these entirely on the portfolio included in the Hugo packet. Though I do have a soft spot for Dos Santos–I have an autographed print of his portrait of Moiraine Damodred hanging in my office at home. They’re all good but I tend to like the styles that make the people seem very real, and convince me that everything unrealistic is just as real.

 

Best Semiprozine

  1. Lightspeed Magazine
  2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies

 

Best Fanzine

  1. Dribble of Ink

 

Best Fancast

  1. No Award

It’s not that I hate the nominees. It’s just that, with all the amazing fiction podcasts out there, I find it extremely disappointing that only nonfiction podcasts are on the ballot, and that the only fiction podcast that’s ever been on the ballot had to heavily pander to get there. If fiction podcasts aren’t going to be recognized in this category, then I hope this trial category is short-lived.

 

Best Fan Writer

  1. Kameron Hurley

 

Best Fan Artist

  1. Sarah Webb

I based these entirely on the portfolio included in the Hugo packet, which only included work from three of the five nominees for some reason.

 

Review: Hugo Short Story Nominees

written by David Steffen

And here it is my favorite category of my favorite SF award, the Hugo Award for Short Story. Another smaller batch this year because the Hugo rules require the nominees to have a minimum of 5% of the total nomination ballot. On the one hand, it’s great that there are so many great short stories being published every year that the nominating vote is spread that thin. On the other hand, I want more stories and it’s disappointing to have less stories to read just because there are more great stories out there this year than ever based on an arbitrary percentage threshold.

Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld, has posted an editorial suggesting that the rule be changed to encourage more short stories to end up on the ballot in the face of increasing Hugo voters. Personally, I would love to see that rule changed. My preference would be to allow the top 5 and count any ties for 5th place as nominees. A too-large ballot can be detrimental if you’re using a simple voting scheme where each voter picks only one story–two stories by one author will self-compete and if people’s first and second choices are very close in their mind there would be no way for them to support both. But the Hugo Awards use an instant runoff scheme where you can rank all the stories in the order that you like them, so if your favorite gets eliminated your vote will still support your second favorite, and so on.

The rules can change if people get involved and raise their voice about what they want. A few years ago, Neil Clarke was a major voice in saving the SemiProZine category by helping people understand the value in the award, and this can be the same.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s go on to the stories!

 

1. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
A few years ago, the world inexplicably changed so that any lie you utter would be met with a downpour of cold water that falls from nowhere combined with a feeling of angst, both proportional to the audacity of your lie. These effects can only be counteracted by saying something unequivocal. You can avoid saying the truth and you can mislead as long as you don’t utter something that can’t be untrue. The protagonist Matt is gay and has managed to avoid coming out to his traditional-minded Chinese parents for years. Now Matt and his boyfriend Gus have decided they want to get married, and Matt needs to break the news to his parents, over his sister’s objections.

At first I thought the speculative element of the water was more than a bit corny. But the story doesn’t make a joke of this concept and runs with it. As with the best speculative fiction, it’s not about the speculative element. It’s about how that element allows us to look at the real world through the lens of the speculative. This story did an excellent job of that. It’s a great story, well told, and I highly recommend it. Easy choice in this category.

 

2. “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
People send their dreams and wishes floating down the Mae Ping River with the hope that those dreams will be captured, read and come true. It is a surprise what some wish for and why. One can never know what’s inside someone’s heart,what they really truly want, and those dreams sometimes reveal our true selves.”

This is the introduction before the story starts, and the story is exactly what is described by those few sentences. The story starts by explaining the wishes of a bunch of people that are cast into the river, and then as the story plays out it’s shown how those wishes are granted, not always in a straightforward fashion. Young Tangmoo dies in the opening paragraphs, drowned in that same river, and the story rolls back to reveal his wish and the wishes of others.

This was an interesting thought experiment about how one must be careful what one wishes for, but to me it never really extended beyond a thought experiment. Some of the turns of phrase were interesting and strange and definitely lent something to the story. But in the end I just was never really connected with it, and the concept itself was also not something new to me. Not bad by any means, but easily forgettable.

 

3. If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
This story starts out with the whimsical hypothetical in the title, as spoken by a woman to a friend she loves dearly, and continues on to give real life reasons why she is pondering this whimsy.

The characters read as real once the story got to the story, but I found all the hypotheticals more irritating than entertaining or illuminating. If A, then B. If B, then C. If C, then D. A story this short shouldn’t feel too long, but to me it did. Eventually the story gets to the actual story behind the hypotheticals, but by that time I was just impatient for it to be over.

 

4. Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
A girl’s mother leaves her family behind. The girl thinks the circumstances imply that her mother is a selkie (a mythical shapeshifting creature that could turn into a seal by pulling on her sealskin, but would be trapped in human form if that skin was stolen).

Most of the body of the story is the girl criticizing the tropes of selkie stories, which I wasn’t very interested in, partly because I haven’t seen enough selkie stories to really say whether her tropes are actually accurate or not. While some of the circumstances of her mother leaving match a selkie story, I didn’t see any really strong evidence that that was the case, so it just seemed to be a story about a neurotic fixation caused by family trauma. The family trauma, perhaps I should’ve felt moved by, but it happened before the story started, and rather than confront the real situation she spends all of her time obsessing about selkie stories.

Not my thing, I guess.