Comfort and despair intertwine in The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard) by Matthew Kressel / La comodidad y la desesperación se entrelazan en The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard) de Matthew Kressel

This is the fifth in a series of reviews of the short stories nominated for the 2017 Nebula Awards. The full list of nominees for short fiction is here.

lizardFinally, a nominee that is not about AI or robots! Matthew Kressel’s story “The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)” is a testament to good old, human-centric storytelling, even though there are aliens in it. I was really tired of reading about the ascent of the non-living intelligences this Nebula season. Give me a violet-eyed alien with humanoid features any day. Overreaction? Sometimes it feels good to see yourself and fellow humanoids represented in science fiction.

A writer is dying. He’s living out his last days on a distant planet, trying to finish his last novel. His muse shows up in the form of a curious, alien child who is fascinated by writing, illustrating, even typesetting. This is a writer’s dream is it not? There is conflict and resolution, and the baton is more-or-less passed.

The story satisfied me, because, as I said, I was really tired of artificial intelligence stories, and Kressel’s powers of description and pacing is very comforting. On a second reading, however, I realized how mainstream the story is. I asked myself whether there was anything in this story that made the violet-eyed humanoids on Ardabaab absolutely essential to the story. Although the story is naturally most plausible if set in some distant future, there appears to be no reason why the writer (in the story, not Kressel) couldn’t have addressed his mortality and concerns about the continuation of his art among humans in the earth’s future. Continue reading

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2017 Nebula nominees for best short story are announced

Did you know the 2017 Nebula Award nominees are out? Of course you did, because unlike me, you’ve been paying attention to all the great science fiction and fantasy out there. The Nebula Awards will be held May 19, 2018, in Pittsburgh.

My only excuses for not posting this earlier are

  1. I’m trying to write a novel.
  2. I’m also building a summer house in a remote location that has sketchy phone service and internet access.
  3. I have a communications consulting business to pay the bills.
  4. The cat ate my laptop.

Okay, #4 is a lie, but the rest is true.

Anyway, here are the short story nominees. Reviews of these nominees are coming soon.

Nebula Nominee Review: “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” by Matthew Kressel / Reseña del cuento nominado al Premio Nebula: “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” de Matthew Kressel

Note: This is the third review of a short story nominee for the Nebula Awards. Reviews of other nominees can be found here and here. More to come.

At first I thought I was in for a silly ride with Jar Jar Binks and company, but nope, author Matthew Kressel pulled up, and “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” turned out to be a touching space opera. I was a little confused about the state of the characters at the end but that did not outweigh the strengths of this short story.

The story opens with two creatures in a space ship on a star-harvesting mission. One–the Eye–is a representation of a supreme (but not infallible) intelligence that has been consuming stars and civilizations for a very long time. The second is the Meeker, a being evidently created to carry out the physical and tactile duties necessary to serve the Eye. When they come upon some space junk they have never encountered before, the Eye is able to regenerate the life form encased there. Continue reading