2014 was a busy year, but mostly because I spent it taking care of the infant (and running after him in the last quarter of 2014)!
It’s very appropriate that out of all the stuff I published in 2014, my favourite is “The Breath of War”, my science fantasy story with spaceships, stone people and pregnancy. It was, hum, heavily inspired by September 2013 experiences, although of course I didn’t give birth in the middle of a space war :p
(if you read this blog, you’ll already know my position on the presence of women and positive depictions of pregnancies in fiction, so I won’t belabour it here–but it is part of why I’m putting this particular story forward).
It was on Tangent Online’s Recommended Reading List for 2014, and you can read it here at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, where it was first published; there are also ebook versions [EPUB|MOBI|PDF|RTF]. And an audio version read by Tina Connolly if audio’s more your thing!
And now onto other people’s fiction: I’ll direct you to my Book Smugglers Smugglivius post for the fiction I loved this year, but here are a few additional things I forgot.
Ahead of everything (which is a lot this year), I’ll just put in a strong recommendation for Xia Jia? She’s been publishing a lot of good fiction (an excellent novelette in Clarkesworld about the festivals of the future, and another one in Upgraded on old age and technology), and I think it’s a shame she’s not getting the recognition she deserves in the West. Here’s an interview with her done by Ken Liu, too.
From my Smugglivius post:
-Zen Cho, Spirits Abroad. A series of wonderfully light and funny stories, from the troubles of getting a boyfriend when you’re a pontianak (Malaysian vampire), to the changes wrought on a family by generations of immigration.
(plenty more behind the cut)
From my Smugglivius post:
-Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem. A game that might be more than it seems; and the everyday man caught in solving it.
UPDATED: -Michelle Sagara, Cast in Flame: the latest in Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra, which are wonderful police procedurals/fantasies with a really strong cast in a multicultural city (and races that aren’t your usual elves/dwarves/etc.). I liked the way this one expanded the universe and changed the relationships between Kaylin and the people in her lives (and, oh, Helen. Badass old ladies FTW).
I didn’t actually read enough 2014 novels, but here’s a list of writers you should be considering (courtesy of the wonderful Kari Sperring): Charles Saunders (Abengoni: First Calling), Deji Bryce Olukotun (Nigerians in Space),Chaz Brenchley (Being Small), and J. Damask/Joyce Chng (Heart of Fire).
And people who didn’t publish novels in 2014 but still well worth reading: Nalo Hopkinson, Judith Tarr, Kate Elliott, Miyuki Miyabe, Carole McDonnell, Alaya Dawn Johnson.
-M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts: in a post-apocalyptic future, a very special girl named Melanie grows up in a bunker, attended by soldiers and taught by Miss Justineau–until one day, her idyllic world shatters… A creepy vision of a very dark future–I’m not a big fan of the trope, usually, but it works very well here, and the interactions between Melanie, Miss Justineau, the soldiers and the scientists are also very well done. The ending, in particular, spectacularly delivers.
ETA: Rachel Swirsky, “Grand Jeté (the Great Leap)”. A heartbreaking look at life in the wake of a child’s terminal illness, from three POVS (the father, the child and the simulacrum android of the child). I loved the way the rituals of Jewish faith and their meaning were incorporated into the story; and the way the different characters came to life–raw and painful and angry, but it’s a wonderful read.
From my Smugglivius post:
-Xia Jia, “Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Sorrow, Love, Joy”. Snapshots of life in near-future China, centred around festivals (a birth, a school reunion, a family reunion…). Please vote for this, it is awesome and easily the best thing I read last year.
-Tom Crosshill, “The Magician and Laplace’s Demon”: an artificial intelligence who comes to dominate human life faces the last magician–it’s an awesome meld of genres, and it kept going unexpected places.
-Yoon Ha Lee, “Wine”: an immortality wine harvested from children; mysterious mercenaries waging an implacable war–and the lover of a councillor caught in a moral dilemma, as the foundations of his universe vanish… This is very good Yoon Ha Lee, and very striking–it was a tie between picking this one and “The Bonedrake’s Penance” for my Smugglivius blog post.
-Ruthanna Emrys, “The Litany of Earth”: what if Lovecraft’s undersea creatures were not creepy monsters, but a persecuted people? I admit to a little weakness for that sort of idea, because “The Shadow over Innsmouth” was the only book I ever threw at the wall (it was the sheer relentless perception of miscegenation as being something so beyond the pale it would drive you mad that did it, mostly), but Emrys does justice to the idea in this lovely story of alienation and finding a new life in the shadow of the old.
-Dario Ciriello, “Free Verse”: a story of parallel universes and the organisation maintaining them in a healthy state–until the day universes start dying off…
-Catherine F. King, “The Ninety-Ninth Bride”, a retelling of the Thousand and One Nights from the point of view of Dunyazade, Sheherazade’s sister.
-Yoon Ha Lee, “The Bonedrake’s Penance”: bone drakes, weapons of mass destructions, cupcakes, and the bittersweet act of growing up. (ETA: moved this to novelette following a correction).
-Project Itoh, “From the Nothing, With Love” (in Haikasoru’s Phantasm Japan). James Bond and ontological considerations–yeah, I know, doesn’t sound like they’d go well together, but they do. (ETA: moved to novelette following a correction).
From my Smugglivius post:
-S.L. Huang, “Hunting Monsters”. A glorious remix of several fairytales from Beauty and the Beast to Bluebeard, relentlessly questioning the basis for them.
-Yukimi Ogawa, “Rib” . A bittersweet and unexpected story of a skeleton woman and the boy who befriends her.
-Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, “Blessed are the Hungry”. Dictatorship on a generation ship, and the cost of revolution.
-Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, “The Construct Also Dreams of Flight” (in Sarah Hans’s Steampunk World). On an isolated island community, a construct awakens to life and love…
-Alyssa Wong, “Santos de Sampaguita”. A creepy and effective tale of inherited magic, the old god who powers it, and their relationship with a young maid in a wealthy house (NOTE: I originally listed this as a novelette in the Smugglivius blogpost. It’s an error–this is 7.1k, just short of a novelette).
UPDATED: -Zen Cho, “The Mystery of the Suet Swain”, Spirits Abroad. One of three originals in Zen Cho’s collection, this is a delightful tale of two friends, one highly logical, and the other one being hit on by a mysterious suitor. It’s got shades of Sherlock Holmes, if Sherlock Holmes were Malaysian and in a British university, and it’s just hilarious. It’s
-Eugie Foster, “When it Ends, He Catches Her: a heartbreaking story of love and forgetfulness, made even more heartbreaking by Eugie’s leaving us way too soon.
-Indrapramit Das, “A Moon for the Unborn”: pregnancies, alien planets and loss. Like a punch to the gut.
-Alter S. Reiss, “By Appointment to the Throne”: a wonderful story of class and prejudice in the wake of mass immigration–all set in a restaurant against the backdrop of a savage murder. I love the matter-of-fact voice of the narrator, and the setting is just wonderful (and yum, the food!).
Isabel Yap is eligible for the Campbell Award this year: I loved “A Cup of Salt Tears” at Tor.com, a heartbreaking story of love and sickness and monsters; and “Have You Heard the One about Anamaria Marquez?”, a ghost story set at an all-girls Catholic school with strong atmosphere and a wonderful portrayal of the relationships within a group of girls.
I think Victor Fernando R. Ocampo is eligible too? “Blessed Are the Hungry” in Apex is a dark and creepy tale of living under a dictatorship on a generation ship, and “‘I m d 1 in 10’” is an absorbing and realistic near-future tale, complete with deliciously crunchy geeky vocabulary.
Alyssa Wong is also eligible: I recommended “Santos de Sampaguita” (see “Short story” above). Alyssa also has a short story “The Fisher Queen”, in F&SF, which you can find in the SFWA forums here–a creepy story of mermaids, a fishing boat and peculiar sisterly bonds.
Scott H. Andrews’ Beneath Ceaseless Skies has been doing sterling work publishing secondary world fantasy and generally awesome stories, and I think the magazine is overdue for a Hugo. Some of my favourites: Yoon Ha Lee’s “The Bonedrake’s Penance” (mentioned in my Smugglivius blogpost: “the story of a child brought up in a fortress by a bonedrake, a former weapon of mass destruction with a fondness for cupcakes—and of what happens when the outside world catches up with them both”), the Alter S. Reiss story mentioned above, and “The Sorrow of Rain” by Richard Parks, a simple, moving and poignant story of a village plagued by rain in medieval Japan).
The Book Smugglers, who got off to a roaring start publishing fiction in 2014 with their fairy tale retellings, are also eligible in that category. I’ve also recommended a fair bit of their fiction: Catherine F. King’s “The Ninety-Ninth Bride”, and S.L. Huang’s “Hunting Monsters”.. I also was quite impressed by Yukimi Ogawa’s “In Her Head, in Her Eyes”, a creepy SF/horror retelling of Hachikaduki.
Best Professional Artist
UPDATED: Victo Ngai. His work is beautiful and atmospheric and just uniquely his.
Best Related Work/Best Fan Writer: I would like to put forward Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and her body of work done for her “Movements” columns at Strange Horizons. I know she’s got a snowball’s chance in Hell, but she’s been consistently blogging about diversity in genre and working towards making this a reality–and she deserves recognition for it. Here are a few of the columns: “Translations, the Mother Tongue, and Acts of Resistance” (Part 1 and Part 2) “Towards Change”.
And, hum, this is starting to be a bit overlong and boring everyone by now, but I did read a few poems of interest: M. Sereno’s “Seeds” in Strange Horizons and Shruti Iyer’s “Confluence (Triveni Sangam)” in Stone Telling 11.
Picture credits: Ferdinand Dumago Ladera, “Sojourn”.