“Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017) — Thuan and Kim Cuc disguise themselves as houseless in order infiltrate and spy on House Hawthorn, a mission that is complicated when a magic curse begins to attack the house in which they are being tested. That’s the simple description anyway, since there are many layers to this story, which hints at a wide, well-detailed world — not surprising as this story fits into the Dominion of the Fallen series. It’s excellent on its own, and definitely has me itching to read more of this world.
“Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017) — Jedao is an operative in the Kel military, with a long list of successes in his mostly classified battle record, who is assigned a mission to investigate the disappearance of another operative and his ship that have disappeared. The story is as much about how Jedao relates to the crew of the ship he’s assigned to as it is about the investigation. He’s clever and capable in his work, which is always fun to read, and the story comes together in a thoroughly satisfying ending.
“The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017) — A group of humans are on a mission to save Sol using an old derelict starship — problems abound with all available bots working to repair the ship. In this midst of this Bot 9, the oldest on the ship, is brought online to hunt down an biological entity, which is all well and good except Bot 9 has some its own ideas of how things should be handled. As the story continues we get insight into the inner lives of the bots’ existence when they’re not working. This story is charming and I am so in love with Bot 9.
“A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017) — Helena is a forger of beef, with a careful artistic attention to detail. Her work is going smoothly until an anonymous caller places a demanding order for 200 T-bone steaks — a job she might have refused, if the caller didn’t insist on blackmailing her into the work. This story is great fun and I loved the unique idea of using 3D-printing to forge meat. It also has great characters in the form of Helena and Lily, both of whom are smart, capable women, and an ending that made me smile with glee.
“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017) — Finley, a young transgender man, gets bitten by a vampire while having a night on the town. Facing death, he elects to become a vampire himself. Exploring what it means to transition from a number of angles — emotionally and biologically (with a look at how vampirism might specifically affect someone who is transgender and taking hormones) — this story is compelling. It’s also rather sexy, with the relationship between Finley and Andreas (the vampire who bit him).
“Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017) — A history teacher and fiddler on a generation starship comes into conflict with one of her students who believes learning the history and stories of the world they left behind is pointless when he will never visit that world. This is an incredibly beautiful story of fiddlers, music, and the value of memory keeping. I love this story and was so absorbed that when I finished, I found myself blinking in surprise that the real world was still here.
My personal and entirely subjective ranking:
- “Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017)
- “A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017)
- “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)
- “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
- “Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017)
- “Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017)