I'm getting to the pointy end of reading for this year and it seems like I've left LOTS of interesting stuff for the final leg of the journey. Such as:
"Sustainable Development," Paula R Stiles, Shine - a short, pointed piece about women's v. men's work in Africa, and how the introduction of robots might or might not make a difference to everyday tasks.
"Twittering the Stars," Mari Ness, Shine - this is a story told entirely through tweets. One of those gimmicks like the email story which will probably become grossly overused in the next couple of years. But this is the first one I've ever read and it's amazing - the protagonist is a microbiologist and botanist who is part of a mining mission that will solve the Earth's energy crisis. Partly because of the intimate tone of Twitter and the clear voice of the protagonist, the story packs great emotional punch and I was quite affected by it. The reader has the choice to read the story back-to-front in true Twitter style, or in chronological order. I chose the latter and was stunned by the effect. Worth a read, before Twitter stories get added to that list along with Adam-and-Eves and it-was-all-a-dreams.
Bleed, Peter M Ball, Twelfth Planet Press - this novella is a fitting sequel to last year's indie faerie noir hit "Horn," taking damaged detective heroine Miriam Aster through another dramatic hail of bullets, old enemies and vicious magical creatures. This one is a lot less confronting than "Horn" (in that it doesn't centre around unicorn rape though it is still pretty violent) and feels more polished, expanding Aster's world and her backstory considerably. The whole thing zips along at a speedy pace, ramping up the action quite breathlessly from beginning to end, with a very authentic detective story tone. I liked the bits with the talking cat best of all. YES I SAID TALKING CAT, DO NOT JUDGE ME.
"Clockwork Fairies," Cat Rambo, Tor.com - a marvellous piece of Victorian steampunk fantasy which tells the story of Desiree the inventor, whose intelligence and Negro heritage makes her an outcast in English society. Her story is conveyed through the unreliable gaze of her foppish would-be husband who fails to realise that his rival for her heart is actually offering her something far more interesting than romance... and in fact, now that I come to think about it clearly, it is in fact a blatant retelling of Tiptree's The Women Men Don't See only with faeries instead of aliens. If there is a story that begs to be told and retold in new and interesting ways, it's that one (though of course I have no way of knowing if this was intentional - I really hope it was!). This also happens to be a most excellent story which shows how hard Victorian society was for any woman (let alone a woman of colour!) who was educated enough to know how limited her options were.
"Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots," Sandra McDonald, Strange Horizons - wow, I've never heard of this writer before this year and she has been putting out a whole bunch of extraordinary work. I particularly like the way she blends humorous writing with quite serious and crunchy themes, with great big ladles of sexuality, gender and other social issues. This story tells the tale of Kay, who demands that her robot-building ex-husband provides her with a team of sexy cowboy robots as part of her divorce settlement. The story explores the complex relationships Kay has with each of these robots throughout her long life, their various personalities, hopes and dreams, while the world slowly descends into the Big Freeze that means the end of everything... At times bleak, subversive, funny, smutty and hopeful, this is a great piece of science fiction that defies the more conventional ideas about how science fiction is supposed to behave. Keep an eye on this author! She's interesting people.