Once again, four of these are Rabid and one is Sad. They are better than the short stories, though.
6. "Flashpoint: Titan" by Cheah Kai Wai
Japanese versus Chinese in space.
Welp. It had some passably interesting ideas about space warfare (though I'd pick The Expanse books over this on that count (and just about any other)). I do hate it when writers have characters speaking in a foreign language half in English and half in snippets from that language. It seems to get particularly egregious when it comes to Japanese. SF aspirants always seem to fall all over themselves to show off that they know some. And somehow noble Japanese versus perfidious Chinese is just odd given the recent history of warfare between the two countries. Especially with the straight-up racism added in. And given that the author's name seems rather Sinitic, it's even weirder. There was really only one character in the story, and he was a plastic mask. And I'm sorry, but no story about Japanese warriors that truly understands the culture it's plundering will end with the protagonist alive at the end, especially if we are to take them as honorable in the Japanese sense. I can think of no more down-with-the-ship culture than that of Japan. (For a story about Japanese culture by a Chinese person who actually seems to know something about it, try this.)
5. "What Price Humanity" by David VanDyke
Space pilots fighting a war against invading aliens wake up in a strange simulation.
Well, these military SF stories start to blur together after a while, don't they? This was very Ender's Gamey, with stylistic hallmarks reminiscent of Brad Torgersen (I'm thinking specifically of "The Exchange Officers," which has a female character named "Chesty;" this one has a black character named "Token" (just because it was funny in South Park doesn't mean it will work for you, bud)). It does have a bit of twist- a twist that you can see coming an astronomical unit away. And having an infodumpy prologue to a story this length is just narrative sloth. Boo.
4. No Award
3. "Obits" by Stephen King
A man learns that when he writes the obituary of a living person, they die.
This is one of those Trojan Rabid nominations; one that's actually good, written by a mainstream author, and might have been nominated even if it hadn't been on a slate. As such it presents a conundrum, which I've decided for myself to solve by simply judging the stories on their own merits and not on the context of their nomination. For this story… Well, the premise isn't exactly original (the short story "Now: Zero" by J. G. Ballard and the Death Note manga/anime/movies come immediately to mind as antecedents), and I found the ending a bit lackluster, but it was actually well-written and a pleasure to read, which makes it like coming up out of the toilet the bully has shoved your head into compared to the Rabid stuff we've discussed thus far. There are some misogynistic undertones to the story, which makes me wonder if that's why they picked it, but it's hard to say with these people.
2. "Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfeng, Ken Liu trans.
A desperate man from Third Space takes on the dangerous mission of delivering a message from Second Space to First Space in a strangely stratified future Beijing.
I'm a sucker for an inventive setting, and this definitely qualifies. The MC is also sympathetic. It was rather lacking in the area of plot, however. I have no idea why Vox Day put this on his list, except to dare the "SJWs" to no-award a story they'd probably normally love.
1. "And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead" by Brooke Bolander
Battle cyborg Rhye has to fight outside her element when her computer-hacking partner goes down, and she has to jack the system.
Not on the Rabid slate, but it was on the Sad Puppies list. I have to admit I really, genuinely liked this one, and I see it as something like a reasonable compromise between the kind of stuff Puppies like and the kind of stuff the SJWs like. This, really, is what a Puppies story could look like if they were better writers. If so, maybe I wouldn't be so violently opposed to them (though at this point it's more like sighing and rolling my eyes at the three-year-old pitching a fit on the floor). It's been a while since I read a modern cyberpunk story that is deserving of the name. Great characters, great action. Gritty yet heartfelt. Well done.
- 2016 Hugo picks: Novelettes