'The Beloved Time of Their Lives', by Ian Watson & Roberto Quaglia
Gosh, this was a cute idea done very badly. The concept of the story is time-travelling lovers for whom the time travel itself both brings them together, and forces them apart. So far, so good. But the concept is wrapped in not very gentle mockery of nerds in love, of love between people of rather different ages, and in particular of obesity just because obesity is funny, y'know? - so I just lost interest. (And the time-travel punchline was pretty obvious from rather early in the story.)
'The Assistant' by Ian Whates
I fear that this was my Mike Resnick story, ie the one I couldn't really believe was actually on the BSFA shortlist. The basic concept - that there is some sinister nano-infintration of a high-tech firm somewhere in middle England - is respectable if unremarkable. But the writing is simply clunky and embarrassing. It would be at the bottom of my ballot were it not for the Watson / Quaglia story being actually offensive.
'Johnnie and Emmie-Lou Get Married' by Kim Lakin-Smith
A rather peculiar (if mercifully short) tale of a young man battling his rival for the right to marry his pregnant girlfriend, everyone having odd fixations with their cars and able to survive, however briefly, horrific injuries. Really didn't do anything for me.
'Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast' by Eugie Foster
Having vaguely known eugie online for many years, I think this is the first of her actual stories I have read. It is excellent: a culture where people identify with each other through the masks that they choose to / are compelled to wear, and the narrator who is rather unwillingly dragged into challenging the structures. Slight reservations from me about the means and motivation of the mysterious woman who sets our hero on the right path, but it's a good read. Glad to see today that it also made the Nebula shortlist.
February Books 11) The Push by Dave Hutchinson
I don't think I'd even heard of Hutchinson before, which illustrates the abysmal depths of my ignorance. This is an excellent hard sf novella, combining a couple of plot elements from Zelazny's "This Moment of the Storm" and GRRM's "Sandkings"; the narrator has spent decades fleeing his own past, and then finds it catching up with him, as the dumb aliens on the planet he helped colonise turn out not to be so dumb after all. The resolution of the hero's emotional and moral predicament is both imaginative and satisfying. Separately published by Newcon Press which is why this entry counts towards my February bookblogging.
'Vishnu at the Cat Circus' by Ian McDonald
Thanks to this being shortlisted, I opened my copy of ianmcdonald's collection Cyberabad Days, of which it is the final story. It is a return to the gloriously realised future India of River of Gods (as is the entire collection), looking at the Singularity from the point of view of the developing world; but also with echoes of Kipling's Purun Bhagat, of Rushdie's Midnight's Children, of Zelazny's Lord of Light. Our narrator has been genetically engineered for genius, but also to age and live at half the usual speed. His relationship with his family meshes oddly with India's relationship with the world of artificial intelligence and transhuman survivors; and he ends up, literally, herding cats. Looking forward now to reading the rest of the collection.
Although my top vote goes to Ian Mcdonald's story, I will not be devastated if the winner turns out to be either Eugie Foster or Dave Hutchinson. I hope that BSFA voters have the taste and judgement to reject the other three.