Annual Summation: 2017

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

Zines, Readings, and Recs

In 2017, Featured Futures covered these fifteen webzines:

  1. Apex Magazine
  2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  3. Clarkesworld Magazine
  4. Compelling Science Fiction
  5. Diabolical Plots
  6. Fantastic Stories of the Imagination (defunct)
  7. Flash Fiction Online
  8. Grievous Angel
  9. Lightspeed
  10. Nature (Futures)
  11. Nightmare
  12. Strange Horizons
  13. Terraform
  14. Tor.com
  15. Uncanny

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I read 509 stories of 2.1 million words from those sources (including a handful of stories from other webzines). Of those 509 stories, 100 received either an honorable mention (50, including two from those others) or a recommendation (50, 26 of which are also noted for having appeared in the “Web’s Best” posts which are linked to in the “Popular Posts” section below). (That there were exactly 100 of 50 and 50 is a bizarre fluke.) The breakdown of total stories, recommendations, and honorable mentions by zines (along with a column of “Web’s Best” selections) was:

          Zine    TS     R    HM  R+HM      R%     HM%   R+HM% | WB
                                                               |
          Apex    36     3     1     4   8.33%   2.78%  11.11% |  3
           BCS    53     6     2     8  11.32%   3.77%  15.09% |  2
  Clarkesworld    46     5     2     7  10.87%   4.35%  15.22% |  3
    Compelling    31     4     7    11  12.90%  22.58%  35.48% |  1
            DP    20     0     0     0   0.00%   0.00%   0.00% |  0
     Fantastic     2     0     0     0   0.00%   0.00%   0.00% |  0
           FFO    32     4     4     8  12.50%  12.50%  25.00% |  2
            GA    29     3     1     4  10.34%   3.45%  13.79% |  0
    Lightspeed    43     5     9    14  11.63%  20.93%  32.56% |  5
        Nature    51     5     7    12   9.80%  13.73%  23.53% |  2
     Nightmare    20     1     2     3   5.00%  10.00%  15.00% |  1
            SH    35     2     1     3   5.71%   2.86%   8.57% |  1
     Terraform    23     1     2     3   4.35%   8.70%  13.04% |  0
       Tor.com    47     7     6    13  14.89%  12.77%  27.66% |  4
       Uncanny    34     4     4     8  11.76%  11.76%  23.53% |  2
                                                               |
         TOTAL   502    50    48    98   9.96%   9.56%  19.52% | 26
                                                               |
         Other     7     0     2     2   0.00%  28.57%  28.57% |  0

The following is the complete list of those noted stories. The alphabet soup at the end indicates the category in the first chunk (SS=short story, NE=novelette, NA=novella), the genre in the second chunk (SF=science fiction, F=fantasy, H=horror, M=mainstream and the tilde (~) indicates my category differs from the webzine’s) and the third chunk is its status (HM=honorable mention, R=recommendation, WB=”Web’s Best” selection, which is a “recommendation plus”). Stories are supposed to be alphabetized by author and then title.

Popular (and Less Popular) Posts and Stories

The top five posts (plus one from the few days this blog was live last year) were:

  1. Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories)
  2. Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!)
  3. Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories)
  4. Summation of Online Fiction: January 2017
  5. Links to Stories the Big SF/F Editors Picked As Their Favorites of 2016
  6. Summation of Online Fiction: August 2017

Even more popular than any post is, of course, the very user-friendly home page (which also throws any individual post stats into question) and the second most popular thing is the List of Webzines page. Even folks who have no interest in this site can make use of it, so that’s not surprising. One thing I’d like to point out, though, is that the relatively new page, List of Professional SF/F/H Magazines (which includes the pro webzines), so far has not been visited like the webzine list but is also generally useful and will be more relevant to this site’s coverage in 2018. Aside from that, I don’t feel like trying to drum up traffic for any overlooked posts/pages but the actual point of this site is to promote good short speculative fiction so I thought paying attention to the story hits would be a good thing to do. The top five visited stories (not clicks on my recommendation posts but clicks out to the stories themselves) were:

  1. Little /^^^\&-” by Eric Schwitzgebel, Clarkesworld #132, September 2017, SF short story
  2. Cease and Desist” by Tyler Young, Nature, 2017-01-18, SF short story
  3. Uncanny Valley” by Greg Egan, Tor.com, 2017-08-09, SF novelette
  4. A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Clarkesworld #124, January 2017, SF novelette
  5. This Is for You” by Bruce McAllister, Lightspeed #84, May 2017, SF short story/

All of those were in the Web’s Best Science Fiction which received a relatively massive influx of visitors (hi, Facebook!) and a similar flood of clicks. Particularly glad to see the clicks on the Egan and Prasad which I chose as the bookends because they were the longest, strongest stories and both of which need to win some kind of award for novelette.

I do want to draw attention to some selections from the relatively “underclicked” stories. It’s quite possible that vast numbers of people have seen these stories without Featured Futures being a factor and I just don’t see the clicks here but, relatively speaking, I’d have liked to see them get more hits.

  • Sweetlings” by Lucy Taylor, Tor.com, 2017-05-03, SF novelette
  • The Garbage Doll” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Nightmare #53, February 2017, horror short story
  • The Dead Father Cookbook” by Ashley Blooms, Strange Horizons, 2017-07-17, fantasy short story
  • Penelope Waits” by Dennis Danvers, Apex #101, October 2017, science fiction short story
  • The Black Clover Equation” by Zach Shephard, Flash Fiction Online, April 2017, fantasy short story

“The Black Clover Equation” is a hilarious apocalypse and takes a comical scientific method into a world of leprechauns and luck, so is fundamentally fantasy. “Sweetlings” takes a horror sensibility into a world of punctuated equilibrium and climate change so, even if compressed and exaggerated to the point of fantasy, is rhetorically science fiction. “The Garbage Doll” is very dark fantasy or actual horror and “The Dead Father Cookbook,” while just plain damn weird, is also kind of a horrific tale if you look at it a certain way. So I’m not generally a fan of genre-fuzz and am not the biggest horror fan and maybe Featured Futures readers aren’t either, but I thought these were all remarkable tales. I have no theory for “Penelope Waits.” It is a fairly conventional SF tale in many ways but is so well done that it seems like it should win some readers. Except for it and “Sweetlings” (which both made the Web’s Best Science Fiction), all of these made Web’s Best Fantasy which was a very popular post but was overwhelmed by the popularity of Web’s Best Science Fiction.

Tangent(ial) Note

The Other 2017 Recommendations post mostly covers this, but I wanted to update it here because I did a late review of Weirdbook #37. That brings the total up to twenty-two reviews for Tangent, thirteen of which weren’t of webzines. The total non-webzine stories read for Tangent is 95 (bringing the overall total to 604 stories). I don’t know the word count but using the average word count of webzine stories (4,198, which is low because printzines, anthologies, and especially chapbook novellas generally have greater average word counts) it’s at least another 400K (bringing the total to over 2.5 million words).

One thing that can be derived from this is that, if fifteen professional webzines and a few Tangent reviews amount to that, and there are dozens of other webzines and dozens or hundreds of other Tangent reviews (and even all that wouldn’t grab every single story), I think it’s safe to say the speculative short fiction market is very healthy – maybe too healthy. And, as there were a handful of significant zines of broad appeal in the 60s-90s along with a few dominant broadcast channels that reached almost everyone, now there’s a cable-ization of short speculative fiction with dozens of markets being read by perhaps niche readerships. This has its good and bad effects but it certainly makes for interesting times and many millions of words a year to read.

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Tangent’s 2017 Recommended List Is Up

Twenty-two reviewers combine forces to bring you a massive list of great reading.

Congrats again to the authors, editors (including Tangent‘s own, Dave Truesdale), reviewers, readers, and all those who make it possible. I hope folks check it out and enjoy it.

Tangent Online 2017 Recommended Reading List

_____

(I apologize to everyone as I was somewhat random with my zero-to-one stars and thought I’d fix it eventually but, by the time I’d got my re-reading done and made my “Web’s Best” selections, it was too late. Suffice to say, at least those stories in the “Web’s Bests” should have at least a star. (And, as always, zero or one stars from me might as well be read as two or three stars.))

Summation of Online Fiction: December 2017

Thinking about this month’s noted stories, I’m reminded of the rational Isaac Asimov’s comments on how numerology “works” because you can find patterns in anything. In this 12th month (1+2=3), threes and twos (and thus ones) are a recurring motif. This month, I recommend three SF stories (two of which come from Compelling – though the one from Nature really can’t be missed) and three fantasy stories (two of which come from Grievous Angel) and honorably mention three fantasy stories (two of which come from Uncanny). Which is, again, three sets: two of recommendations and just one of honorable mentions. Meaningless, but I’ll admit it is a weird coincidence. These nine tales were chosen, not from 32 stories of 123K words, but from forty December webzine stories of 162K words.

As this year ends, before getting to the list I’ll mention (as I’ve mentioned earlier) that 2018 will bring changes to Featured Futures, which include broader coverage and a different review method. Change has actually already begun, since I’ve reviewed the January/February F&SF (a print zine) and that and all December reviews were an experiment in full Tangent-style reviews for everything. However, as I suspected I would,  I’ve decided to move to a happy medium between the original bare “recs” method and the December method. I’ll feel my way towards the precise details over time.

Continuing the theme, a change to note in the webzine world is that Compelling is unfortunately moving from bi-monthly to semi-annual with this month’s issue (but for good reasons rather than bad: the editor and his wife are having a baby).

Now, on with the list.

Recommended:

Science Fiction

  • Fifteen Minutes” by Alex Shvartsman, Nature, December 13, 2017, short story
  • Museum Piece” by J. D. Popham, Compelling #10, Winter 2017, short story
  • Redo” by Larry Hodges, Compelling #10, Winter 2017, short story

Fantasy

Note: “The Wind’s Departure” is a conditional recommendation, as I say in the relevant Wrap-Up, because it’s part of a series and, in my opinion, doesn’t entirely stand on its own. I do recommend this if you’ve already read some of the series but don’t recommend starting here.

Also, both of the Grievous Angel stories’ links go to the same post so just pick’n’click the title you like best or something. 😉

Honorable Mentions:

Fantasy

Reviews of the Above:

(Since I’ve done complete reviews this month, there’s no need to discuss honorable mentions here as I’ve done before, or to link to the recommendations individually, so there are just links to the reviews which discuss the good stuff.)

Links (2017-12-30)

It hasn’t been too long since I posted one of these (and very popular they are, too ;)) but the links, partly aided by year-end-ness have really piled up, so here’s another installment.

Science

Here’s a trio from Scientific American. (There are actually multiple images in each post but they’re variations on three themes.)

Here’s a trio from Space.com. The first is just neat and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

There will certainly be no lack of human pioneers when we have mastered the art of flight… Let us create vessels and sails adjusted to the heavenly ether, and there will be plenty of people unafraid of the empty wastes. In the meantime, we shall prepare for the brave sky-travelers maps of the celestial bodies. I shall do it for the moon, you Galileo, for Jupiter.

— Letter from Kepler to Galileo, 1610

On the second, it’s not good news for the US that its Russia doing it (and not good news for Angola either). Still, to reference another quote, William Gibson may have said, “The future has arrived – it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” This shows that the distribution continues, at least. (They actually lost communication with it soon after launch, but it’s been restored.) The third link is a pretty good summary of the year.

And to end the science part on the right note:

Now for some nature photography. (I think I got this from the Chrons.) I wonder what it says that animals sometimes seem at their most human when they’re at their goofiest.

Science Fiction

BestScienceFictionStories.com gives us not just a year, but a decade, in review. (The list is actually an all-time list.) His list is not what my list would be, but it’s got some excellent stuff and I respect the reading and effort that went into it. Speaking of respect, James Cambias soulfully argues that Disney lacks respect for Star Wars and its fans. I recently posted some comments on The Last Jedi which skipped over all the plotholes entirely because I felt like I had bigger fish to fry, but Cambias takes an interesting bird’s-eye approach to them which gives them their proper due without getting bogged down in details.

Sports

I don’t talk sports here much (don’t know that there’d be even as much interest as there is in the other stuff) but I have to note the bowl victory that ends the Wolfpack’s football season.

At one point, State led their division and looked ready to challenge Clemson and perhaps become a national team (and we did play them tough) but it didn’t work out. Still, finishing as a ranked team with a 9-4 record and a big bowl victory is a nice season.

While I’m at it, I also wanted to comment on Navy’s bowl victory (which I wasn’t able to see at all, alas). That, ladies and gentlemen, is football. I watched the Army-Navy game in early December and that was hands-down my favorite game of the season and really of the last many, many years. I loved both Army and Navy this year. Passes? We don’t need no stinkin’ passes!

Misc

CBS News tells how the GOP tax bill makes Powerball winner even richer. (I can feel the warm trickle coming down already.)

John Shirley says, “I’m a Supporter of Transgender Rights–Who Can’t Stand the Term Cisgender.”

Morey Amsterdam died years ago, Mary Tyler Moore died at the start of this year and 2017 has also seen fit to take Rose Marie at the end, leaving only the eponymous actor of the core four still with us. There aren’t many sitcoms of the black & white era that entertain me but this was a great show with a stellar cast and Buddy and Sally were a major part of it.

Rose Marie, Sally Rogers on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” dead at 94

Music

While Rose Marie could be seen as yet another musician who died in 2017, I think of her as a multi-talented comic actress. However, there are some dedicated musicians who left us in 2017 that I may have memorialized elsewhere on the web but don’t seem to have paid my respects to here on Featured Futures. I’ll do that now.

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Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2017-12-29)

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up image

While the week before Christmas had an avalanche of nine stories of 37Kwds, this week after Christmas seems to have a single story of about 2. So here it is.

Edit (2017-12-30): I keep forgetting that the irregular Grievous Angel can ambush me at odd moments. Appended below is a note on what it promises is the last flash of the year.

You Will Never Know What Opens” by Mari Ness, Lightspeed #91, December [28], 2017, fantasy short story

“You” are “presently” exploring all the doors in your house which shift and sometimes disappear but lead to magical lands which have varying degrees of danger and which allow you to return after varying intervals.

This very short story is almost dead in the water, being second-person, present tense and extremely “meta” but it’s so full of shiny things (moments of beauty and insight and humor) that it’s hard not to note it in some way. What really hurts it is the lack of plot. While there is some motion, it’s really not that different from the recently reviewed “An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried” in terms of being a list. Just a shorter, yet much more elaborate and attractive list.

Garbanzo Brain” by Diana Rohlman, Grievous Angel, December 30, 2017, fantasy flash

A woman is at the psychic lady’s place, seeking solace, talking about her husband and how he usually or always said “I love you” to her before leaving except the day he died in an accident.

This is likely not fantasy at all (certainly doesn’t have to be) but you can insist on the reality of an element in the story to make it fantasy. Either way, while it’d be sympathy-inducing in real life, it’s rather simple and sentimental fiction.

Movie Review: The Last Jedi

[The post (which is a no-draft babble like all my visual media things) has no spoilers but, if you haven’t seen it yet and are dead set on doing so and want it to be as unspoiled as possible, you probably don’t want to read this, which isn’t 100% abstract but discusses elements of the movie in a general way.]

I saw The Last Jedi over a week ago and have been mulling it over without discussing it much. (It’s quite likely I’m adding nothing new to the conversation but it’s just my take.) While The Force Awakens and Rogue One didn’t fill me with unalloyed joy, I did really like them both, overall, and was basically sold on this “new Star Wars” thing. I even got The Force Awakens on DVD last Christmas and had already put Rogue One on my list (and got it this Christmas). So then I went to see The Last Jedi with high hopes that it would be at least as good as the others and less derivative (or homage-filled) than The Force Awakens.

I’d been really afraid that The Last Jedi would be a remake of The Empire Strikes Back just like The Force Awakens was of Star Wars. They partially avoided this by making it a remake of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi at the same time. Luke is a sort of anti-Yoda and Rey is a sort of off-beat Luke. Later, “Snoke” (ridiculous name even for Star Wars) and Rey and Ren replay most of the Emperor/Luke/Vader scenes of the third movie. What is so disheartening is that neither recap is remotely as good as the original. The special effects are even richer and the action is even more frenetic but the comparison of ideas and characters and interactions and emotional power of the scenes reveal the new movie’s inferiority.

Perhaps worst of all is the Disneyfication of the franchise. I was pleased that The Force Awakens felt like Star Wars. I was initially uneasy but ultimately pleased that Rogue One felt a little different (primarily in a grittier way). But The Last Jedi is a Disney film. Star Wars has always had cute weird critters (the worst offenders being the Ewoks, of course, who had redeeming resistance fighting features, at least) but this movie was chock-full of extreme examples ranging from good Disney ice foxes to horrible Disney “porgs” – the fat bird-like “comic relief” critters. Worse, the poor child-labor urchins with their brooms fell out the utterly wrong kind of stereotypical Disney movie. Again, this isn’t unprecedented in the sense that Luke was a poor farmboy but this was extreme. Perhaps worse still was the “humor.” Star Wars has always had cynical, smart-alecky humorous dialog (generally very successful) and even sometimes direct “humor” like the critters eating other critters outside Jabba’s palace (with mixed results). But this movie attempted to be funny, having the characters “do comedy” in a way that worked in the abstract (because so conventional in moviedom terms) but failed utterly in a Star Wars context, pulling the dramatic rug out from under every scene in which it was employed.

If all that wasn’t the worst, the worst was probably Rey. The character has so much potential and Daisy Ridley can be so magnetic that it’s obvious she’s the star. But she was a mere component of this movie which was as interested in Finn and his gratuitous new love interest and Dameron and all his infighting with the rebel leadership. Which, again, forcibly makes one realize that this movie can’t do the “Han and Leia in the asteroid field” storylines. (But it’s worse. In the originals, even aside from my enjoyment of all the disparate lines, they all served purposes. You could cut the Han and Leia line from Empire and just recap what happened while they were away from Luke before they all get to Bespin – or cut Luke and Yoda the reverse way – but that would be worse than removing a kidney or a lung “because you can get by with one.” On the other hand, the storyline of Finn and the new girl could have been cut entirely with no loss at all and arguably multiple gains.) Obviously a core part of the movie was Rey and she obviously did get a lot of screentime but it was relatively little and she’s starting to feel separate from the Rebellion and a mere adjunct to Ren. Vader was always a big draw but Luke and Han and Leia more than held their own. Worse, Ren doesn’t remind me of Vader so much as – and here I will mention the trilogy which doesn’t exist for the first time – young Anakin Skywalker. Ren has none of the cinematic power of Vader but the script is writing him almost as though he’s the actual point of all this. Rey has more cinematic power than Luke and they’re sidelining her. And Poe and Finn together, however generally likable, don’t make a single Solo.

Not that this movie was all bad – far from it. Allowing for some debatable elements, Carrie Fisher has a good final role and performance, which is very important. And, except for some stray cartoon critters, this movie looked very good. It was reasonably well paced. They did nice things such as with Ren’s mask. The fights and battles were very exciting and, again, good looking. Some of the Force elements weren’t bad. I was initially mostly happy and only got very uneasy as the looong, two and a half hour movie wore on and, even at the end and for several days later, I couldn’t make up my mind exactly what I thought. So, “there is some good in” it. But I believe the new movies have turned to the Disney side.

Perhaps the most telling thing is the “see it again” test. I really feel like I ought to see the movie a second time. Perhaps my reactions would change, at least somewhat. But, while not violently opposed to the concept, I don’t really want to cough up more money to do so. And that’s certainly not the reaction I had to the other five movies.

Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up (2017-12-23)

ufo

All the weekly(ish) zines had stories this week except Diabolical Plots and Tor.com. which makes for a somewhat heavy holiday Wrap-Up (nine stories, 37,000 words). While not everyone participates in Christmas, of course, anyone looking for holiday-themed stories would find only one (a dystopia, of course), though one of the non-holiday stories at least had the Christmas spirit and is coincidentally one of this week’s two recommendations.

There are a couple of accidental commonalities to several of this week’s offerings. One is especially tired themes. There are three apocalypses, a dispute between religion and science and/or colonialism and nativism, and a first contact, none of which do anything better than all their predecessors. Secondly, some of those stories hold back the specific details of a tired generality to presumably create suspense, which does not work. While puzzle stories or those exploring cognitive dissonance can make great use of unfolding mysteries, conventional apocalypse stories and the like only betray their lack of confidence in their milieu and characters or their naivete in thinking readers will be intrigued by their novel “mysteries.”

Trette’s Bones” by Grace Seybold, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #241, December 21, 2017, fantasy novelette

In a city where the populace ordinarily sacrifices various bones of their bodies, the flute-playing narrator give up a finger joint but her sister sacrifices an ear bone and, ultimately, her entire skull, with epochal effect.

The narrator records this just two or three days after the event and it opens with a tone that, while professing to be angry, sounds almost like humorous snark to me. Even if it is anger, it still seems unlikely that a narrator of these events at this time would narrate in this way. Aside from that, it’s technically adequate but is the sort of “makes no damn sense and seems completely bizarre but it’s all ‘symbolical of something'” story that I don’t generally care for, though some do.

Forever Night” by Dana Beehr, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #241, December 21,  2017, fantasy short story

In a previous generation, a woman had come to a town and, with the special help of a townsman, saved it from a vague evil incursion, being cursed in the process. Now descendants of each must go fight a recurrence of the incursion. The man incessantly wonders if he can do what it takes (“what” being obvious but unspecified) when the time comes.

I don’t mean to be mean, but have to call it like I see it. The characters aren’t likable (though there is a trace of Cherryh’s Morgaine and Vanye in them – or ought to be), the journey is tiresome, the male lead’s self-doubt is repetitive and overdone, the ending is ludicrous but partially obvious all the same, and the whole seems faintly puerile.

The Button Box” by Jamie Lackey, Grievous Angel, December 16, 2017, fantasy flash
The Boy in the Picture” by Morgan Crooks, Grievous Angel, December 16, 2017, fantasy flash

(Both links go to the same post which contains both stories.)

What odds? I didn’t recommend anything from GA‘s first ten months of 2017 and am now recommending three of five stories from the last two months and two from a single post. The first reminds me of an Amal El-Mohtar story (unspecified to avoid spoilers) but this one isn’t even entirely, exactly fantasy. Certainly unusual and unusually touching, though. The second is very much fantasy and even more powerful. And all in less than seven hundred words. Combined.

A Third of the Stars of Heaven” by Cadwell Turnbull, Lightspeed #91, December 2017, science fiction short story

Henrietta is a devout St. Thomian who doesn’t want to compromise her religion with alien medicine, even to save her life.

The story is very dull with almost no conflict – Henrietta’s just going to do what Henrietta’s going to do. It opens with a boring, uncontextualized visit with a doctor before finally giving it context and a word to show it’s SF. Then it goes back to an unpleasant (understatement) childhood memory. And, eventually, it wanders on to its self-satisfied end.

The Coupon” by Judy Helfrich, Nature, December 20, 2017, science fiction flash

Along with a problem related to “the coupon,” this is specifically another in a spate of recent stories of a certain kind (unspecified to avoid spoilers) and generally another “make fun of locals while talking to them about their supposed alien contact until it’s proven in a way that surprises someone in the story” story.

Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?” by Matthew Kressel, Nightmare #63, December 2017, fantasy short story

Kate is standing by the road with several others, desperately wanting a car to stop and take her away. Turns out, she’s died here in a car crash, which she had as a result of mishandling a personal trauma. That backstory is narrated, along with aspects of her afterlife, while we wonder if she’ll ever rest in peace.

This is told with phrasal refrains which may strike you as stylish or annoy you, depending on your taste and temperament, but the foreground story of the ghosts is (quite appropriately) haunting and effective. Unfortunately, the backstory is fine but conventional and doesn’t really compare well. Perhaps most significantly, I wasn’t thrilled by the ending which seemed more interested in conveying implicit advice to the reader than in being internally satisfying. Still, not bad.

The Birding: A Fairy Tale” by Natalia Theodoridou, Strange Horizons, December 18, 2017, fantasy novelette

This is a largely misanthropic (and partly, um, “eugynic”) tale of the end (or change) of the world. This would be a science fictional apocalypse if most humans were infected by an avian flu which killed us. But this is really an avian flu: it turns us into birds. We explore this milieu through the eyes of a pregnant woman making her way through the changed land.

For what it is, this is competently executed (if long and generally uneventful) and fans of such things will probably like it though it doesn’t stand out from the innumerable other tales basically just like it and is unlikely to appeal to a general audience.

Last Christmas” by Tim Maughan, Terraform, December 21, 2017, science fiction short story

A girl wakes up her hungover dad on Christmas. The glass walls show snow and she wants to go out and play but dad distracts her with presents. Then the distraught dad goes off to argue with the distraught mother. And eventually the story gets around to telling us specifically what we’ve been impatiently waiting for because we already knew generally.

Given that, these mere two thousand words are too long. Matters aren’t improved by severe pronoun dysfunction: the woman is never called anything but “she/her,” leading to lines like, “He… watches Astrid happy on the floor… Mariah Carey seeps from… speakers.¶She sits opposite him, fresh and showered from the gym…” where the last phrase is our only clue that Mariah Carey hasn’t seeped opposite him or that he doesn’t have a bilocational daughter. But the most important thing is just the tiredness of the concept and vagueness of the milieu and “characters.”