Best Short Fiction – English
Here are my reviews of the five stories nominated for Best Short Fiction award.
"Crimson Sky" is set on a partially developed and colonized Mars in some not too distant future. This slice of life story lets us view the experience of Maggie an EMT search and rescue helicopter pilot responding to an emergency from an adventurer in a downed lighter than air craft. Realistically executed, you are quickly dropped into the action with a vivid sense of being there. Engaging and upbeat. Very likable character in Maggie and a vision of what life on Mars may be some day.
A teenager coming to terms with his gay orientation worries he will be the target of the bully "Jelly"so he concocts an escape plan using an unfinished time machine that his deceased father designed but left untested. He hopes for a better opportunity of acceptance in a different future or dimensional reality. The science is completely whimsical and for me reminiscent of some of Harry Harrison's short stories. The ending is a satisfying blend of practical reality based on good advice and a little wish fulfillment. A strong example of the current diversity trend in speculative fiction.
Set in Japan, a Roman Catholic priest investigates a "Jesus" android in a small village. Some overlong dialogue between the investigator, an American Christian, the local Shinto priest, the Mayor, the android and a right-wing protest group serves to illustrate both cultural differences and similarities of people of faith.
"Mecha-Jesus" is humorously irreverent and offers up a couple of zingers such as when the protest leader meets the android and says - “But it looks like a gaijin cosplaying as an ancient Israeli.”
Some minor contemporary social commentary but overall this story felt unfocused.
"No Sweeter Art" is a fantasy watercolour. The title refers to the skill of a street sorcerer and outcast whose abilities are manifested from his gods through candy. He is hired by a magistrate to foil an assassination plot. As far as I can tell based on Asian style mythology, the glimpse of world-building is vivid and rich. Well-paced. Format somewhat weakened by the lack of space to develop the characters but I can see this being expanded into fully realized fantasy world.
This is second nomination in this category for Suzanne Church. "Soul-Hungry" in my opinion is the more polished of the two entries. This is a macabre little tale where the afterlife dead feed on the souls of the living effectively murdering them. Some quick rules are introduced, posses, time-slipping, memory loss, religion as protection and more. But in essence it is a love story. A twisted one, but a love story. The juxtaposition of the story elements makes it surprisingly poignant. Did I say twisted. Yeah. Twisted.