Saturday, January 2, 2016

Short Fiction - December 2015

[Stained glass; a Christmas present from my parents]

Short Fiction - December 2015

As with November, my December short fiction reading was a bit scattered. While I've finished my challenge of reading at least a short story for every day of the year (i.e. at least 365 stories), I didn't manage to read anything the last few days in December, although that was less about Christmas and more about New Year's, which is the big holiday for me.

In any case, I did read a total of 445 stories in 2015, a number of which I felt justified in putting on SFWA's recommended reading list. I plan to continue this for 2016, and want to spend January reading primarily for award nomination purposes. I also plan to do a summary post for 2015 in the near future, once I get the house back in order after the New Year's Eve festivities and get back from an artists' retreat I'm attending to start off the new year.

"Legion" and "The Emperor's Soul" by Brandon Sanderson

This month, I read three novellas by Brandon Sanderson: Legion, which I'd read once before; Legion: Skin Deep; and The Emperor's Soul. I absolutely adore Legion's main concept, in which a schizophrenic man's mind creates "aspects" for him, or hallucinations of distinct personalities that have different skill sets. In fact, his mind specifically creates each aspect right when he has particular need of new skills. He knows they're hallucinations -- and most of them know they're hallucinations -- but he really has no choice but to treat them as though they're real, up to and including living in a mansion so they all have their own rooms, and sitting at a large table in a restaurant so whichever aspects are with him can "eat" too. The different personalities are wonderfully individual characters, which is a nice feat.

In the first book, Legion, someone has photographic proof of time travel, but the inventor has disappeared. It's a nice little mystery at what seemed to me to be the perfect length. Unfortunately, I didn't find the second book, Legion: Skin Deep, nearly as satisfying, mainly because I found the mystery, especially the motive, less than compelling. There was some nice character development among the aspects in this book, but it felt as though the author was deliberately holding back information to save it for another book in the series. I know that authors do this all the time, but I found that the specific amount of character development that was in this book actually had the reverse effect of making me want what wasn't there.

Unrelated to the Legion series, I also finally got around to reading Sanderson's The Emperor's Soul, which won the Hugo award for best novella a few years ago. In this story, Shai is a forger, who can rewrite objects' history to make them into something else. She's also a criminal scheduled for execution, but has been offered a way to save her own life: she must forge a new soul for the Emperor, who unbeknownst to his subjects is brain dead from an assassination attempt.

The forgery process as described by the author is quite fascinating, although I found it more believable for objects than for a personality. For instance, I loved that Shai could turn her window into stained glass because the frame "remembered" having once held stained glass, and it would prefer to be all that it can be, an object of beauty. Shai can also forge her own soul into other people she might have been, such as trained warrior when those skills are needed. That's actually quite similar to what happens in the Legion novellas but with a different process behind it. Clearly the author is intrigued by people who can provide themselves with all sorts of skills, and no wonder, because it's a compelling idea. I definitely recommend The Emperor's Soul, which is available from the publisher, Tachyon, or the usual retailers.

"Fibonacci" by Eleanor R. Wood

I loved this flash story about a researcher attempting to re-introduce extinct ammonites into an eco-system. It's not precisely a "list" story, but it's specifically constructed around numbers in a sort-of list format. I didn't realize until after the fact that the Fibonacci of the title relates to a very specific set of numbers, so it was fun looking up more about that once I'd learned of it.

And it's also a romance. So much is packed into these beautifully chosen 996 words! There are things about the story's construction that I didn't notice until after I had finished it, making it well worth re-reading. There's so much to there to "unpack." Read here at Flash Fiction Online.

Other stories read in December 2015:

(alphabetical by author)

- "O Tannendoom" by Folly Blaine (2015)
- "Beyond 550 Astronomical Units" by Mike Brotherton (2015)
- "The Shortest SF Story Ever" by Seth Chambers (2015)
- "Indelible" by Gwendolyn Clare (2015)
- "Little Galaxies" by Jennifer Dornan-Fish (2015)
- "Lovot" by Santiago Eximeno, translated by Alicia L. Alonso (2015)
- ""Hairbrush, Socks, Pencils, Orange" by Kate Heartfield (2014)
- "I'm Only Going Over" by Cat Hellisen (2015)
- "And a Cup of Good Cheer" by C.L. Holland (2011)
- "The Workshop at the End of the World" by Kristin Janz (2015)
- "A Christmas Story: Flash Fiction Style" by Darynda Jones (2011)
- "St. Roomba’s Gospel" by Rachael K. Jones (2015)
- "Christmas Debt" by Jenny Schwartz (2015)
- "Lupine" by Nisi Shawl (2013)
- "Seven Items in Jason Reynolds’ Jacket Pocket, Two Days After His Suicide, As Found by his Eight-Year-Old Brother, Grady" by Robert Swartwood (2010)
- "Mall-Crossed Love" by David Steffen (2015)
- "Keeping it Real" by Kim Stratford (2015)
- "Carpenter of the Universe" by Nicola Wells (2015)
- "A Long Way from Home" by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (2014)
- "The Spinning Wheel's Tale" by Jane Yolen (2013)

List of the sources from which these stories came:

(alphabetical by anthology title, magazine title, website name, etc.)

- 10 Flash Quarterly, January 2011
- Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 62, December 2015
- Clarkesworld, February 2015
- Daily Science Fiction, various dates
- Diabolical Plots, December 2015
- Every Day Fiction, various dates
- Flash Fiction Online, December 2014; December 2015
- Gollancz, 2015
- Mash Stories, October 2015
- Nature, July 2014; December 2015
- Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales (anthology), edited by Paula Guran, 2013
- PANK Magazine, April 2010
- Robotica (anthology), edited by Elizabeth Hirst, October 2015
- Subterranean Press, 2012, 2014
- Tachyon Publications, 2012

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