written by David Steffen
Clarkesworld Magazine has had an incredible year. As I wrote these lists I was considering my own Nebula and Hugo nomination ballots and much of my short fiction ballot come from Clarkesworld. This year they’ve been publishing a monthly story translated from Chinese as part of an ongoing initiative to share more Chinese author’s works with the English reading fandom. These stories have been a wonderful change of pace, different in some ways from what I’m used to in works written in English, something new and fresh.
The magazine continues to be edited and published by Neil Clarke and the podcast is hosted and most-often narrated by Kate Baker of the excellent voice.
Clarkesworld published 78 stories in 2015
1. “Today I am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
This is my top story pick for 2015 across all publications. It is told from the point of view of a personal caretaker android designed to empathize and to emulate family members of an Alzheimer’s patient so that she can live at home. Solid emotional story with lots of good stuff to think about.
2. “When Your Child Strays From God” by Sam J. Miller
This story chronicles the journey of a mother and pastor’s wife to find her son who has disappeared, leaving traces of a popular telepathic drug behind. She takes some of the drug, which links her telepathically to her son, and she goes to find him… knowing full well that while the drug’s effect last she is vulnerable to her son’s personable boogeyman. A great story of empathy and bravery and doing everything for family.
3. “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer
Formatted as a cooking blog, at first I thought I wouldn’t like this story. But the format proved very effective for this story of a spreading pandemic as a food blogger tries to take care of her family and still keep her blog going while supplies and travel are severely limited.
4. “Summer at Grandma’s House” by Hao Jingfang, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan
I like this one especially for its discussion of fate. As it says right in the beginning of the story, when fate is discussed it is generally understood to be a script that we follow or that it doesn’t exist at all. I find the explanation of fate given by this story to be much more interesting and also practical.
5. “Ether” by Zhang Ran, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan and Ken Liu
This one might begin a little slow for those used to a “hook me immediately” attitude in publishing, this one was a bit of a slow boil but I thought it was well worth it in the end, and looking back the slow boil made total sense and wouldn’t have worked any other way. It’s a kind of a dystopia story, though it doesn’t immediately seem that way.
6. “An Evolutionary Myth” by Bo-Young Kim, translated by Gord Sellar and Jihyun Park
A world where individual creatures can adapt to changing conditions in the world to become something wholly unique (yes I realize that’s not evolution by the scientific term, but this is a fun and interesting fantasy story not a hard SF tale).
7. “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer
Really interesting story about an AI interacting with people by influencing their web search results. The title is a playful poke at the premise, and there is plenty of that in the story, but I also found it very heartfelt.
8. “Technarion” by Sean McMullen
Shortly after the discovery of radio, humans discover signals seemingly coming from the ether explaining how to build more and more complex computing machines.
“Cassandra” by Ken Liu
“Mrs. Griffin Prepares to Commit Suicide Tonight” by A Que, translated by John Chu
“Daddy’s World” by Walter Jon Williams
“War, Ice, Egg, Universe” by G. David Nordley