(some of) what I liked in 2015.

The Nebula nominating period (and the Rhysling nominating period) end this weekend; the Hugo nominations have just begun. It’s a good time to compile my list of what I liked in 2015. Not exhaustive in any way.

Organized for your delectation by (Hugo/not-a-Hugo) nomination category. Some commentary. Some lists.

dramatic presentation (short form):

  • Blackstar, David Bowie. I was going to nominate this before Bowie died; it is an incredible ten minutes of film, about legends and transformation and relics and death and other worlds. I really want to nominate it now.
  • Jessica Jones. My god, I watched an entire Marvel property and enjoyed it.
  • Steven Universe: is there a consensus on a best episode to collectively nominate? Can we come to such a consensus?

dramatic presentation (long form):

  • Mad Max: Fury Road. Pretty much the ideal action film for me: gonzo, grotesque, desert death cults, the world is saved by women and emotional openness.

novel:

  • Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear
  • Last First Snow, Max Gladstone
  • The Just City, Jo Walton.
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson (this ends up on my list despite my reservations, because I think it’s such a goddamn brilliant ambitious failure and it made me happy in very complicated ways).
  • Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
  • The Sorcerer of the Wilddeeps, Kai Ashante Wilson (this counts as a novel, apparently, at least for the Nebulas)
  • Updraft, Fran Wilde
  • House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard
  • Shadowshaper, Daniel Jose Older

novella (I’m bad at novellas):

  • The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Djinn”, Usman Malik (Tor.com)
  • “Binti”, Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

novelette:

  • “The Deepwater Bride”, Tamsyn Muir (F&SF)
  • “Folding Beijing”, Hao Jingfeng (Uncanny)
  • “And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead”, Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed)
  • “Fabulous Beasts”, Priya Sharma (Tor.com)
  • “Morrigan in Shadow”, Seth Dickinson (Clarkesworld)
  • “And the Balance in the Blood”, Elizabeth Bear (Uncanny)

short stories:

  • “Planet Lion”, Catherynne Valente,  (Uncanny)
  • “The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zaci”, Benjamin Parzybok, at Strange Horizons
  • “Madeleine”, Amal el-Mohtar, at Lightspeed
  • “Monkey King, Faerie Queen”, Zen Cho, at Kaleidotrope
  • “The Deepest Rift”, Ruthanna Emrys, at Tor.com
  • “The Glad Hosts”, Rebecca Campbell, at Lackington’s
  • “ζῆ καὶ βασιλεύει”, Sonya Taaffe at Ideomancer
  • “Cat Pictures Please”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld)
  • “In the Queue for the Worldship Munawwer”, Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)
  • “Shimmering, Warm, and Bright”, Shveta Thakrar (Interfictions)
  • “Midnight Hour”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny)
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers”, Alyssa Wong (Nightmare)
  • “Documentary”, Vajra Chandrasekera (Lightspeed)

Campbell Award:

  • Alyssa Wong
  • Sara Saab
  • Natalia Theodoridou
  • Alison Wilgus
  • Laurie Penny
  • Sunil Patel
  • Roshani Chokshi
  • Andy Weir

Graphic story:

  • Bitch Planet #5
  • The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 2: Fandemonium
  • Pretty Deadly (vol. 1)
  • Wilde Life (webcomic)

For the record: I myself am also eligible for the Campbell Award, and have published the following eligible things in 2015:

short stories:

 

“City of Salt”, Strange Horizons (16 March 2015) (2nd place, Strange Horizons Reader’s Poll)

“Adjuva”, Lakeside Circus (Year Two, Issue One)

“When the Fall Is All That’s Left”, Apex Magazine 77

one poem:

“The Demon Vivienne Explains Volitional Geography”, Through the Gate 8

 

“Contra Gravitatem (Vita Genevievis)” at Lackington’s

The latest issue of Lackington’s (#9, ‘Architectures’) is out, and thus so is my space gnostics story, “Contra Gravitatem (Vita Genevievis)”.

The issue is on sale now for $2.99, or you can subscribe for an entire year of brilliant, peculiar, lyrical stories at Weightless Books for $9.99, which is not very much really. (Lackington’s is a magazine I would be subscribed to regardless of whether I ever had a story with them — the ethos of the magazine, which is all about strange and stunning thematically-organized fiction, with an emphasis on prose stylistics, is an ethos I really believe in.)

Or you can wait a few months for the stories to be released online, but trust me. These are worth your money. I have amazing company in this issue (Sara Saab! Natalia Theodoriou! Julia August!) and you want to read everything.

CONTRA GRAVITATEM (VITA GENEVIEVIS)

Vega Septemiensis 273. “CONTRA GRAVITATEM” a LIFE of the apocryphal SAINT GENEVIEVE preserved in Late English (w/ some Greek characters), anonymous, 23rd century CE, acid-etched on lead sheets.

St. Genevieve the Shipwright took her people out into the black with no intention of coming home. Gravity was a poison birthright: the corruption of the earth entwined in every cell, material hyle infecting both psyche and pneuma. Contemplation and ascetic practice were not enough to perfect a mortal soul, not if she dwelled on the skin of a planet. Each and every one of them had been built by the desires of the demiurge, that lesser creator that sought to trap the divine breath that animated all the universe in shells of substance. By the time she’d reached twenty, Genevieve knew a better way: if she wanted to see the pleroma, the divine regions of light beyond the physical world, she would have to leave all the downpulling earth behind.


Story notes:

So this is a saint’s life, spun through a SF sensibility.

I mean that in a formal sense: this is a hagiography, and I wrote it from medieval models. It therefore has some particular rules about narratorial voice, sequencing, and plot elements, which were extremely fun to attempt to replicate while also obeying the genre conventions of science fiction.

One of my current interests is thinking about the interaction between SF concepts (in this case, worldships and interplanetary exploration) and religion, especially the kind of religious practice which can feel, to a modern/Western audience, speculative in its strangeness: ascetics, stylites, martyrs, the idea of spiritual perfection, a kind of remaking of the self into new and peculiar and transcendent shapes. The impetus for St. Genevieve the Shipwright came from re-reading some Gnostic texts from the 1st century AD, and thinking about how Neoplatonic ideas of perfection might interface with a near-future world that had its own ideas about the ideal future of humanity.

And so: gravity is the corruption of the world, and then well, a gnostic saint would have to leave gravity behind.

After that it was just a matter of figuring out who the demiurge was. 😀

I feel very lucky that Lackington’s exists, and is a magazine which is interested in this kind of hybrid formal experiment; I couldn’t ask for a more appropriate location for this story to appear.


soundtrack:
“Having Beheld the Resurrection”, Rachmaninoff (All-Night Vigil no. 10)