All the Shortlisted Stories BSFA, 2013, 90 p.
(The awards for 2012 will be presented this Sunday (31/3/13) at the Bradford Eastercon.)
Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, no. 69)
A domineering culture known as Galactic has a piece of tech called an immerser which at once disguises its wearer but also provides him or her with cues to fit in culturally.
The narrative is twofold – one in second person from the viewpoint of a non-Galactic woman who never takes her immerser off (originally in an effort not to embarrass her Galactic husband,) the other in third person focusing on Quy, a non-Galactic inhabitant of Longevity Station, and whose sister Tam is trying to unravel the complexities of Galactic tech to neuter the effect of immersion.
The story could be read as an allegory of US influence on the modern world, the (possibly unthinking) extension of its ways and attitudes onto other cultures. Equally valid is the view it is about addiction (in this case to immersion) or even submersion. The immerser acts as a kind of hijab, hiding its wearer behind a persona. In the process it removes some of the personality it covers.
Doubts concern the mechanics of the story and the relationships within it, examination of which makes it, in the end, unconvincing.
There was a strange usage (late minute revisions) and a typo (it wasn’t where Quy’s had last left it.)
Song Of The Body Cartographer By Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philipine Genre Stories)
Among a set of creatures known as Timor’an, Siren is a body cartographer tasked with examining her lover Inyanna’s body map to find the reason for her inability to fly with a windbeast. And then to carry out the repair work which might mean Inyanna will leave her forever. Told in third person from Siren’s viewpoint this is a simple love story with an unusual setting.
The reading experience is marred by a few infelicities (dispair, a simply relocation) plus some misplaced commas.
The Flight of the Ravens by Chris Butler (Immersion Press)
This is a novella rather than a short story. Set mainly in Amsterdam in 1889, with excursions to Vienna and Frankfurt and also to the Amsterdam of 1452, it starts with two children entering a house and encountering an old man and a vortex which absorbs one of them. The remainder works through the ramifications of this for the girl, Elizabeth, and the father of the boy, Huginn Raaf, who form a compact to try to prevent a reoccurrence of the tragedy. The narrative features a fire giant confined within the vortex and a rather unconvincing Sigmund Freud whom, under Huginn’s prompting, Elizabeth consults. The ravens of the title are Odin’s companions, Muninn and Huginn. (Yes.) The characters don’t come to life and Butler’s use of words is occasionally awkward while his adoption of viewpoint within a scene can be too diagrammatic -“This was it then,” when we reach the climax? Otherwise the text was clean. To my mind this is a fantasy story, and not SF.
Limited Edition by Tim Maughan (1.3, Arc Magazine)
In an intensely surveilled society – an exaggerated version of our consumer driven one – a new type of must-have trainers which make stuff appear round them every time thee touch the ground is advertised on to the spex people wear. On spex, ))blink((ing takes the place of mouse clicking on a computer. Cash-starved Grids and his mates decide to raid the shop the trainers will be sold in to get themselves the shoes. The narrative is interspersed occasionally with Twitter style comments from the affluent or deprived commenting on the proceedings as they unfold.
The characters speak in a demotic that attempts to be futuristic or “street.” The twist, when it comes, is not really surprising.
There were two grammatical oddities. “Him and College look skyward.” “His clothes is splattered.”
Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (Rejectamentalist Manifesto)
This is an extremely short piece (550 words or so) featuring the extension of marketing into warfare and (here) demolition projects. Logos appear in the explosion remnants. Its main thrust, though, deals with people who use a time-dilating drug to climb and descend the building as it collapses in what would be the most extreme of sports. It did contain, though, an irritating overuse of “&” instead of “and.”
Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales (Whippleshield Books)
My (extended) thoughts on this are here.
The more remote from it I get the better this story lies in my memory.