Hugo 2018 Reading – January

I try to read the Writers of the Future anthology each year, since I am entering the contest every quarter. But I tend to wait to buy it until it goes on sale for only $.99 for the kindle version. Digging into that has made me feel really productive for my Hugo reading, but I read a decent number of stories (or at least more than I have been) even without that!

“Moonlight One” by Stephen Lawson
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 33

The concept is interesting – there’s been a murder on the moon, when there are only two people living there. But I did not like the execution. Most of the story is told from the point of view of a friend on earth, who couldn’t do any investigating on his own (he had to rely on the survivor on the moon to do it) and had no stakes in the game. And I didn’t find the answer of the conspiracy theory very believable either.

(5 stars) “The Armor Embrace” by Doug C. Souza
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I loved the emotional pull to this story. A father-turned-mech-warrior goes to visit his daughter on her way home from school, and slowly comes to realize what has happened to himself. The emotions as the father tries to tell his daughter that everything’s ok when it really isn’t, it’s just beautiful.

“Envoy in the Ice” by Dustin Steinacker
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 33

This was an different alien encounter story, where the alien just sits and observes and receives gifts from diplomat. I wasn’t excited by it, though. I didn’t care what the mystery behind the envoy was, since I didn’t believe really that people or the world was at stake. And the viewpoint character didn’t care either until the diplomats weren’t returned. The characters were so powerless to do anything, so the plot was going to happen no matter what they did.

“Airswimming” by Aisha Phoenix
a short story published by Strange Horizons

The fantasy in this story is small, and doesn’t appear until a third of the way through the story. It was a very nice description of grief, and how accepting it is different for everybody. Definitely succeeded with its theme.

(5 stars ) “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells
A novelette published by

I loved this story. I loved how Nata’s blindness isn’t described explicitly. You get clues from the fact that there’s no visual description, from the implant giving her visual cues, such as where a drink is on the table, or that someone wants to shake hands. They even talk about curing, and how Nata doesn’t want a cure. I also loved how she’d altered her ship so that she could fly it. Then the smuggling plot that goes awry when the cargo decides it wants to go somewhere else. Very well done.

Trigger warning: f-word several times.

“Tears for Shülna” by Andrew L. Roberts
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

A selkie story where the selkie says good bye to the dying man that she loved. The description was decent, but I never connected with the characters. Though it was at a time of grief, nobody showed much emotion. Yes, there were tears, and talk about how selkies held all their feelings inside, but it just didn’t feel real to me.

“The Drake Equation” by C. L. Kagmi
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

Another alien contact story – following a common trope that aliens haven’t contacted us because humans are too violent. The method of contact was interesting. I didn’t like the hallucinatory way it happened though. Perhaps if the destruction of the ship was described first, and then introduced the beach, I might have had a better time accepting it, because then I’d be primed to think of it as an analog of heaven.

(5 star) “The Thirty-Seven Faces of Tokh-Bathon” by Effie Seiberg
a short story published by PodCastle

Chananthay is such a cute character. Always daydreaming as she works to clean the temple. And then I liked the evolution of the faces from the Knight and Knave fable, and discussion of truth as subjective. Very sweet plot of friends helping each other.

“Analog Signals” by Shawn Proctor
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This story had an interesting concept about listening in on alternate universes. I was confused at the end though. I didn’t know if the “this reality” where things might work out was the one he was listening to, or the one he was living.

“Longing for Stars Once Lost” by A. Merc Rustad
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story with all its flashbacks out of order was hard for me to follow in audio. Even looking over it now, I’m not sure I can piece together what happened. I think my biggest problem for not caring enough to piece it together is I wasn’t sure how Kitshan was planning to achieve his desire – finding his ship again. Also, I missed the theme of the story – wanting to do good with your final act, even if it means your destruction.

“Acquisition” by Jake Marley
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I did not like Barlow. I doubt he was supposed to be likable – he is practically kidnapping ghosts and selling them off. And then I didn’t understand the end, how he suddenly realized that Alyssa could help Karen. It was supposed to be Barlow’s redemption, I guess, but it didn’t work for me.

“Obsidian Spire” by Molly Elizabeth Atkins
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

As a sword and sorcery story, I really wanted to enjoy this story. However, there were points when Varga’s character fell flat. She wanted a guide, thinks “use your assets” yet doesn’t think that Fiske, when he shows up, can even serve as a guide (though he does, and very well). I also hadn’t seen her desire to be a hero, make a name for herself, so when the narrator mentioned it, it felt tacked on.

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