“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra, published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, is nominated for the Hugo Award this year in the novelette category. Analog has posted this story for free for the voting period.
The protagonists of this story are a trio of Exoplanetary Explorers: an earthling, a silver Venusian, and a golden Martian. They get in a bar fight, which puts them on thin ice with their commanding officers. Their punishment is to be assigned to a mission doomed to fail–there is a planet on which they wish to establish a colony, where they have learned that the residents are intelligent but have failed to establish true contact with them. Priam, the Martian, raises the stakes by promising that they can establish contact and offering up their jobs if they fail.
“Championship B’tok”, written by Edward M. Lerner, published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, is nominated for this year’s Hugo Award in the Novelette category. Analog has posted this story for free online as part of this Hugo season.
I generally start these stories with a synopsis, to give a sense of what the story was about. For me to be able to write a meaningful synopsis I need to be able to get some cohesive sense of what the story was about. I had trouble discerning that for this particular story, so this is not so much a synopsis as a list of story elements. The story starts with pilot Lyle Logan playing chess against his ship AI, and then the scene ends very abruptly in a way that’s never adequately explained and these characters never appear again in the story, nor have any other appreciable effect. We’re introduced to an alien race known as Snakes, among other things. There are also a mysterious race of beings (Interveners) that can apparently mimic the appearance of either humans or Snakes–these beings are not at all well-understood but they believe that the beings sparked the explosion of life in the Cambrian Era and that they steered the social/technological development of the human race. The story mostly circles around two characters: a snake named Glithwa and a human named Corinne, and a human Carl. Glithwah represents the ruling Snakes, digging for information about what might be human sabotage. The titular game, b’tok, is played during the story, which is supposedly as much more complicated than chess as chess is more complicated than rock-paper-scissors.
“The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn, published in Analog, is nominated for this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Analog has posted this story as a free read as part of the Hugo season.
This is part two of the Journeyman series of stories. I have not read the first part of the story, so I am extrapolating a bit. Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironhand and Sammi o’ th’ Eagles are in the midst of a journey that began in the previous story, where they were sent on a quest by a ghost that resided in a crashed vessel from the sky (presumably an AI residing in a starship) to find particular settlements for the star-men to salvage from the remains. As well as the quest, they are also trying to stay ahead of Kalakaran Vikaram who is looking to avenge his brother that Teodorq killed. As they are trying to cross a territory toward their destination, they stop to examine a stone building and they wonder how it was constructed (the technology level of the setting is mostly like a Medieval level, but with the remains of higher tech scattered about it’s clear that this occurs in the future after a technological collapse of some kind). They, as well as their pursuer, are captured. To continue their quest they must somehow escape their imprisonment.
“The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelte (translated by Lia Belt) was published in Lightspeed Magazine. It appeared both in text and on the Lightspeed podcast.
Toby’s world turned upside down, figuratively speaking, when his girlfriend Sophie left him, with only a promise to pick up her goldfish the next day. But, before she can fetch the fish, the world turns upside down, literally. No one knows why or how, but gravity suddenly reversed. Many people don’t survive, many from head injuries, many others from falling down into the endless sky. Toby survives. The goldfish survives. Did Sophie? He has to find out. And also give her the fish back. And maybe, just maybe, they can reconnect in this world gone wrong. As Toby makes his way across the dangling undersurface of the Earth, he meets other people trying to survive.
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart was published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. The story is posted here for free to read.
Alluvium is the name of a human settlement and the planet its on, a place close enough to Earth in habitat that colonists can live with just nano-infusions to balance out the few chemicals that are toxic to humans. Life is as good as it can be, until the Peshari (a lizard–like alien race) landed and conquered the human settlements. Cerna is one of the settlers still living under their oppressive rule. His friend, Keller, has become sick, since the Peshari took away their all-important nano-fabbers. Keller has taken an interest in the death rituals of the Peshari and how it differs from human death rituals.
And on to the Novelette, the awkward older sibling of the Short Story category. Stories from 7,500-17,500 and voted by fans. A decent batch of stories here! And unlike the Short Story category this year, we got a nice round 5 of them (which means it might’ve been less contested than that category, no doubt in part due to the difficulty of getting longer short stories published).
On to the next category of the Nebula awards, the Best Novelette, which covers fiction between the word counts of 7,500 and 17,500 words. Generally I’m not a big fan of novelettes because to me they feel like short stories that have overstayed their welcome. Even though they can be more than twice as long as a short story I rarely feel like they have more meaningful content than a short story and so the story is just diluted in a larger space. It’s an awkward length, I think, not enough room to spread into more plot arcs like a novel would do but too long for the appealing conciseness of a short story.