An all-female shortlist for the BSFA Short Fiction Award this year, which is refreshing. I had little difficulty in raking the four nominees as follows:
1) March Books 14) Spin, by Nina Allan
Second para of third section of narrative:
“Oh my God, you’re here!” Macy cried. “Was the bus ride terrible? I bet it was. I told your father he should have made you come by skyway.”I was hooked by Spin from practically the first page: our heroine, Layla, follows but does not completely recapitulate the story of Arachne across a recovering, slightly alternate-history but still contemporary Greece. Tremendously well realised, and I hope it wins the BSFA and that it gets a Hugo nomination. I'll be voting for it both times.
I was not quite sure about this story's eligibility, in that what actually happens to the protagonists in the framing narrative seems to lack any overt sfnal content. However, that framing narrative then refers back to various folk-tales about selkies, and since they are part of the story as it is presented to us, I guess it counts. Having got that out of the way, I found it a neat examination of what myths do to us - both the ones we get from our culture, and the ones we tell ourselves.
The story of three children of a famous Swedish-Chinese woman astronaut, who gather together on the dwarf planet Ceres to watch her final mission. There is some quite nice incidental detail, and the picture of the astronaut herself is clear, but I found the narrative a bit one-note and not very helpful about who is actually telling the story, and to whom; plus of course the actual spaceflight stuff doesn't make a lot of sense, in a story where other details are nailed down quite hard.
I'm sure this will be this year's Marmite story, which some people will love to bits, while others (including me) just don't get it. It's a tale set in a city like New Orleans with lots of stuff going on in terms of symbolic fish and a gender-shifting protagonist; but I was not convinced by all of the parts, and still less by the way they fitted together. It's a shame because the imagery was pretty vivid, but needed more connecting tissue.
Just a note on methodology: for a couple of years now I've been using Evernote for a lot of my general record-keeping: it isn't as fiddly as Dropbox, and it means I can keep a lot of things synchronised across iPad, iPhone and all my various computers, with a web interface too if I need it. For the BSFA shorts this year (apart from Spin), I saved the original web publications to Evernote and was then able to edit out everything but the story text, leaving me three stories in a very readable format. It worked very nicely.