The 2016 Hugo Award nominees have been announced, and I will not be reviewing the short stories here in the next few weeks–though I may look at nominees that I judge to be authentic and of some obvious literary value. The shenanigans of those who participate in the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) are really disappointing.
Spanish translation below the English is by Daniela Toulemonde.
Author Nnedi Okorafor promises a straightforward account of an African woman’s adventure in space both with the title of her Nebula-nominated novella Binti and in the hauntingly beautiful cover design, illustrated by David Palumbo. Much more, however, is delivered. Okorafor’s prose and writing style makes this novella appear deceptively simple. It was only when I finished it that I realized the magic she had worked throughout. *Warning: spoilers ahead.
We join the main character, a young African girl of the Himba people, preparing to leave earth in secret and go to a prestigious university (a whole planet is dedicated to education) far across the galaxy. Despite passing the difficult entrance exam and gaining admission, Binti is worried. As a member of community on earth that is marginalized and discriminated against, she wonders if this opportunity will really open the doors to the education that she hopes for or will the university be just one more exploitive institution as her family has warned her?
Binti manages to board the ship filled with students departing for the university and, over the course of the journey, begins to make friends. Before reaching the university, however, the ship is attacked by sophisticated and deadly beings known as the Meduse. Everyone aboard is murdered except Binti and the pilot. Her goals shrink to one: survival. Continue reading
I sit with my notebook and two pens at the dining room table. The notebook, rather than the laptop, because my wrist hurts and because I am weak right now, terribly weak, and likely to self-medicate with social media if the laptop is within reach. If someone wandered by they might think I was in detention or drying out or trying to put my life in order, and they would be right about all of that, but they might not see that I am also comforting myself, battling the greased monkey of the mind and slipping into an imagined world where all of my creation exists or does not, according to my will.
The white page, the black ink, the clean surface of my cheap oak-veneer dining table–modest talismans that protect me during the stormy passage between worlds. Every time the journey is attempted, body, mind and ego sing like sirens. Check email. There’s half a gyro in the refrigerator. Where’s the cat? The cellphone bill is overdue. And worse. My sirens never promise anything better than a cup of tea or the occasional rum and coke, but they are adept at expanding loathing and self doubt into a poisonous cloud or condensing them to a needle point, depending on what will extract more pain.
I do not beat the sirens every time, but I’ve gotten better at not listening because of the practice of writing. Writing in itself, even stupidly stilted writing, has made my characters’ voices louder. Now, even if I cannot see them or make out their exact words, I know which direction to wander when I reach the imagined world. This world is vast, and I have a long way to go before these characters’ stories will be complete, but that’s okay. I am advancing a little further each day I sit at the table, hold the pen, and touch the page.
This is the sixth and final review of the nominees in the short story category for the 2015 Nebula Awards. Spanish translation below is by Daniela Toulemonde.
“When Your Child Strays from God” by Sam J. Miller is set in some parallel universe where Dr. Seuss books, Barbie, the religious right and Dateline exist along with super, mind-altering drugs. People are taking hallucinogenic drugs that put them into something like a dream state where they can influence the hallucinations of other people. As someone who has grown up in the networked world might expect, this drug experience is called “webbing”. People who panic while on the drug results experience something akin to a psychotic breakdown that keeps them trapped in their hallucinations.
All of this is background for a story about a mother’s love for a wayward, teenage son and her strange trip toward forgiveness. Voicing the frustrations and fears of a middle-aged woman who decides to partake of the drug, Miller manages to not only make all of this totally believable, but makes Mom’s trip absolutely fun to read. Continue reading