“And Yet” by A.T. Greenblatt is all about choices

This is review number two of the 2019 Nebula Award nominees for best short story. You can see the first review here, and the list of nominees here

I would call “And Yet” by A.T. Greenblatt fantasy that borders on the weird. Plenty of tension as we follow the unnamed narrator through the rooms of a haunted house, but no real scares. The narrator is a young man who has some disability that requires him to wear leg braces and use a cane. He has completed his ph.D. and is planning to pursue physics—particularly the physics related to parallel universes, which is so well represented by this terrible house.

He has been here before, of course, as the result of a dare when he was a kid. The dare also resulted in his younger brother trying to follow him there and ending up in a terrible accident that disables him as well. Complications resulted in the brother’s death at age eight. Despite this, our narrator’s impetus to re-enter the house is never quite clear to me. He says it is for research purposes, but that seems thin. Perhaps it is to find a version of himself in the house without disability, or to simply disrupt the timeline and escape the house successfully in the hopes of disrupting the timeline for his brother’s sake. And it is entirely possible that the correct answer is there in the story, and I was just a poor reader. But never mind all that. Continue reading

Sarah Pinsker pulls off a magic trick in “The Court Magician”

Here we go with review number one of the six short stories nominated for the Nebula Awards this year. Check out the list here

The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinsker is an almost perfectly circular tale of the pursuit of power, conscience and cruelty. A young boy who is adept at magic tricks and suitably power hungry enters an exclusive and strange tutelage for the privilege of becoming the court magician, but there’s a cost. There is always a cost.

The action of the basic story goes through logical, predictable stages in the magician’s life and resolves at the end almost where the story began. But I said it is an “almost” perfectly circular story because the reader will realize at the end that the unseen narrator has pulled off an impressive sleight of hand. Continue reading

2019 Nebula Award nominees for best short story: let the reviews begin!

Literary award season is back, praise be! The 2019 Nebula Award nominees were named last week, and so we begin our review of those works in the short story category. (You can see the whole list of nominees at The Verge.)

Short Story Nominees

If you’ve been following my reviews in the past, you’ll know that I like to focus on three main story elements: strength of character, cohesiveness of plot and choice of scaffolding for the story’s world. Short stories have to accomplish a lot in few words with no opportunity to slow roast, but they can surprise us at times. I love surprises. Let me amend that a little to say I love surprises that don’t leave me incredulous.

Several new names in this roster, which I shall take as a good sign that the nominators are reading more widely and working a bit harder, but I could be completely wrong about that. Let’s read and find out. Check back soon and we’ll kick this list off with Sarah Pinsker’s story.