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Yesterday, I offered up a list of My Favorite Genre Novelettes of 2016.

Today I’d like to offer up a list of My Favorite Genre Short Stories of 2016.

Of the roughly 200 stories I read last year, these were, in my humble opinion, the Top 30.

I’ve included a short synopsis and links to an online reading copy. You may also want to consider purchasing the issues outright (or, better yet, subscribing!). And, if you’re interested in further reading, I would heartily recommend RockStackRank, a site that offers up monthly aggregate ratings for works in the categories of short stories, novelettes, and novellas.

“Salvage Opportunity” by Jack Skillingstead (Clarkesworld #114) – SF

Badar has a 4-year contract sits all alone at a salvage site on Kepler-186f.  – RocketStackRank

“The Governess with a Mechanical Womb” by Leena Likitalo (Clarkesworld #114) – Post Apocalyptic

Agneta and her little sister, Saga, are among the last human survivors. The invading aliens have assigned a modified human “governess” to watch over them. RockStackRank

“Into the Wreck” by June Oldfather (Strange Horizons – February 22nd, 2016) – SF

A human science team studies the colossal wreck of an alien spacecraft. RocketStackRank

“The Artificial Bees” by Simon Guerrier (Uncanny #9) – SF

Randall, a robot, investigates an unfamiliar place: a home garden. RocketStackRank

“Not a Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass” by Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed Magazine #69) – Fantasy

Ellie used to travel freely to the other world, but lately her door doesn’t work. In fact, all the portals are broken for some reason.RocketStackRank

“Blessed are Those Who Have Seen and Do Not Believe” by D.K. Thompson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #91) – Magical Steampunk

Elijah is dying of tuberculosis in a London where Darwin discovered spirits, not evolution. He and a vampire friend descend into the underground to look for a cure. – RocketStackRank

“In Skander, For a Boy” by Chaz Brenchley (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #91) – High Fantasy

Having no heir, King Rulf sends Harlan, his most trusted adviser, to find the son of the king he overthrew 20 years ago.RocketStackRank

“We Have A Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You?” by Rebecca Ann Jordan (Strange Horizons – April 18th, 2016) – SF

Filo/Gee, an intelligent giant amoeba, isn’t the ideal college roommate, particularly since he experiences the world through touching and tasting, which is hard on books, electronics, and relationships.RocketStackRank

“1957” by Stephen Cox (Apex Magazine #84) – SF Horror

Daniel is 17, attends a British boys school, and is very happy except in those moments when he remembers a very different life.RocketStackRank

“Blameless” by Jeffrey Ford (A Natural History of Hell – Stories)

A couple are invited over to a neighbor’s daughter’s exorcism. (Small Beer Press) – New Weird Horror

“Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic” by Jose Pablo Iriarte (Strange Horizons – June 13th, 2016) – Contemporary Fantasy

Sergio is called to remove an offensive mural, but when he touches it, it makes him “remember” things from other people’s lives. – RocketStackRank

“A Good Home” by Karin Lowachee (Lightspeed Magazine #73) – SF

A disabled human veteran takes in a disabled AI veteran. The AI doesn’t talk anymore due to trauma, but Tawn tries to get through to it, even though his mother thinks it’s dangerous.RocketStackRank

“Binaries” by S.B. Divya (Lightspeed #73) – SF

The narrator describes his life in exponential steps.RocketStackRank

“Cuckoo Girls” by Douglas F. Warrick (Apex Magazine #85) – Horror

Nikki and Samantha are on the run from luminous monsters that are trying to kill them–and anyone they care about who’s near them.  – RocketStackRank

“Lullaby For A Lost World” by Aliette De Bodard (Tor.com) – Horror

Charlotte’s sacrifice kept the forces of chaos at bay, but only for a while, and in her grave, she grows resentful.RocketStackRank

“Against the Stream” by A Que (Clarkesworld #118) – Time Travel

An “illness” causes a man to wake each morning in the previous day, and as he lives his life backwards, he sees the mistakes he made.RocketStackRank

“The One Who Isn’t” by Ted Kosmatka (Lightspeed Magazine #74) – SF

A woman appears to be helping a child recover from some form of brain damage. His perceptions and memory are off, but something is off about her too.RocketStackRank

“The Assassin’s Secret” by Adam Troy-Castro (Lightspeed #75) – Fantasy

The world’s greatest assassin sits in his lair, waiting for people to come to him to beg his assistance.RocketStackRank

“The Gentleman of Chaos” by A. Merc Rustad (Apex Magazine #87) – High Fantasy

An immortal assassin threatens the new king, so he has his sister trained as the ultimate bodyguard.RocketStackRank

“The Engines Imperial” by Sean Bensinger (Clarkesworld #119) – Fantasy SF

The starship Rook returns to the system to mourn her sister starship, who died there 10,000 years ago.RocketStackRank

“Rooms Formed of Neurons and Sex” by Ferrett Steinmetz (Uncanny Magazine #12) – Near-Future SF

Lydia’s boyfriend, Ross, was just a brain in a jar. So how, exactly, did she injure him during sex?RocketStackRank

“Of Sight, Of Mind, Of Heart” by Samantha Murray (Clarkesworld #122) – SF

You adopt an android baby. You name him Ben. He grows amazingly fast.RocketStackRank

“Afrofuturist 419” by Nnedi Okorafor (Clarkesworld #122) – SF

Nigerian astronaut Abacha Tunde has been abandoned in space since 1990 and he would appreciate some help getting home.RocketStackRank

“Every Day Is The Full Moon” by Carlie St. George (Lightspeed Magazine #79) – Slipstream

B’s werewolf dad beats her, but what really gets her down is she hasn’t become supernatural like her friends have.RocketStackRank

“A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette De Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #195) – Space Opera

Thuy seeks her daughter’s remains in the twisted parts of unreal space where salvagers pick over the remains of wrecked starships.RocketStackRank

“Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar (Tor.com) – SF

A vast fleet of “jalopies” carry individuals on a one-way trip from Earth to Mars. People do it for different reasons, some of which we learn about in this story.RocketStackRank

“The Savannah Liar’s Tour” by Will McIntosh (Lightspeed Magazine #68) – Urban Fantasy

In the near future, Ben uses cryosleep for a side-effect: while he’s under, he can meet his dead wife. Trouble is, he has a new wife.RocketStackRank

“Secondhand Bodies” by JY Yang (Lightspeed #68) – SF

Agatha wants a svelte replacement for her plump body, but since she can’t get one grown in a reasonable time, she looks into an illegal swap.RocketStackRank

“Two’s Company” by Joe Abercrombie (Tor.com) – High Fantasy

A warrior woman and a thief fleeing from the south meet a male warrior fleeing from the north in the middle of a bridge. Then it gets complicated.RocketStackRank

“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” by Jason Sanford (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #195)- SF

Frere-Jones controls the nanobot “grains” that help protect the ecology in the bit of land she “anchors.” She’s come to view the grains as a tyranny, but there doesn’t seem to be much she can do about it.RocketStackRank

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It’s that time of year again, the time of year that the various big name genre awards start generating their list of nominees.  As a fairly prolific reader, I’m often left bewildered and genuinely annoyed at some of the titles that make – and, often, do NOT make – these lists.  So much so that, two years ago, I decided to start my very own genre awards (The Rogue Star Awards right here on this blog) to recognize the overlooked gems and standout novels, novelettes, short stories, and comic books that I, personally, enjoyed over the course of the previous year.  It’s just one guy’s opinion but, when all is said and done, the  opinion of a guy who reads significantly more than 95% of the people voting in those other awards.

Anyway, today I’d like to offer up a list of My Favorite Genre Novelettes of 2016.

Of the roughly 50 novelettes I read last year, these were, in my humble opinion, the Top 7.

I’ve included a short synopsis and links to an online reading copy.  You may also want to consider purchasing the issue outright (or, better yet, subscribing!).  And, if you’re interested in further reading, I would heartily recommend RockStackRank, a site that offers up monthly aggregate ratings for works in the categories of short stories, novelettes, and novellas.

2016’s Top 7 Novelettes

In the Midst of Life by Nick Wolven (Clarkesworld #113) – SF

“In a rude, career-ending memo to his boss, Doug recounts a disaster that occurred on a company property in Indonesia when they tried to evict a group of squatters and their charismatic leader.” – RocketStackRank

Chains by A. J. Hartley (Tor.com) – Steampunk

“Anglet is an indentured laborer working on a suspension bridge. Sir William sees something in her, and wants to pay off her indenture and give her better work.” – RocketStackRank

Teenagers From Outerspace by Dale Bailey (Clarkesworld #119) – Historical SF

“In 1955, Nancy’s best friend Ellen dates a bad boy who introduces her to Bug Town, where aliens live. Nothing is the same after that.” – RocketStackRank

Once More into the Abyss by Dennis Danvers (Tor.com) – Contemporary SF

“Stan is sure he’s an alien, or at least that his parents were, and he’s happy to accompany his wife to the abyss, an archaeological site out west associated with aliens.” RocketStackRank

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan (Tor.com) – SF/Mainstream

“The crew of the new Mars mission are coming to the hotel where Emily works, and her mom is starting to say strange things about her involvement with the last Mars mission.” RocketStackRank

A Deeper Green by Samantha Murray (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #205) – Fantasy

“The colony can’t tolerate assault, and it depends on Juvianna’s gift of making people forget crime and motivation alike. But what if she used it preventively?” RocketStackRank

Extraction Request by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld #112)  – Military SF Horror

“Elliot’s squad of convict-soldiers crash-lands in the middle of a swamp far away from help. Extracting them doesn’t seem to be a priority, but something seems to be wrong with the swamp.” RocketStackRank

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In a previous blog entry, I ranted about the shit book recommendations put forth by numerous reputable websites.  It would seem that, in many cases, the quality of the work is of much less importance than the connections of the author.  Well, someone recently directed me to BBC.com’s “books” section which offers up a monthly list of suggested titles.  They’re a varied lot and some may not be to your taste, but take a chance (like I did) and you’ll be pleasantly surprised (like I was).

Or, you can check out any of the following books – “My Favorite 5 Recent Reads”:

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (General Fiction)

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Ill Will by Dan Chaon (Thriller)

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves.” This is one of the little mantras Dustin Tillman likes to share with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to epitomize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients has been plying him with stories of the drowning deaths of a string of drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses his patient’s suggestions that a serial killer is at work as paranoid thinking, but as the two embark on an amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.

The Suicide Motor Club by Christopher Buehlman (Horror)

Remember that car that passed you near midnight on Route 66, doing 105 with its lights off? You wondered where it was going so quickly on that dark, dusty stretch of road, motor roaring, the driver glancing out the window as he blew by.

Did his greedy eyes shine silver like a coyote’s? Did he make you feel like prey?

You can’t remember now.

You just saw the founder of the Suicide Motor Club. Be grateful his brake lights never flashed. Be grateful his car was already full.

They roam America, littering the highways with smashed cars and bled-out bodies, a gruesome reflection of the unsettled sixties. But to anyone unlucky enough to meet them in the lonely hours of the night, they’re just a blurry memory.

That is—to all but one…

Two years ago, they left a witness in the mangled wreck of her family car, her husband dead, her son taken. She remembers their awful faces, despite their tricks and glamours. And she’s coming for them—her thirst for vengeance even more powerful than their hunger for blood.

On the deserted highways of America, the hunters are about to become the hunted…

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (Science Fiction)

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Historical Fiction)

The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.

If you do get a chance to read any of the aforementioned, give me your take in the comments section.

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Guys, guys!  Not so fast!  We’re not heading back to Vancouver for another month and a half.  I’ve still got another two and a half weeks of production, one script rewrite, four cuts, and innumerable mixes to complete before I can start packing.

The action was fast and furious on main unit over at the Ishida Palace where the red wine and blood were flowing.  Dontcha just love family reunions?

Security cam footage from Rigel-9 captures two of this galaxy’s most wanted.

The subterranean meeting lair – a work in progress.

The Ferrous Corp shipyard – designed by Henry Fong.  Moving on to the VFX stage.

Between my various Dark Matter-related duties, I’ve managed to read 40 books so far this year.  The best book I’ve read to date – and, in fact, the best book I’ve read since my 2014 discovery of The Glass Castle – is Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley that, at it’s heart, explores the relationship between a girl and her deeply-flawed father.  5 stars!

Can’t recommend it enough.  Brilliant.

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Today, the whole family headed over to Off Leash Studio where photographer Kevin Sarasom spent the better part of an hour snapping singles and group shots of our muttly crew.  Lulu and Suji were naturals, sitting pretty, preening, and occasionally mugging for the camera while Bubba required a little more work to bring out his natural derpishness.  But we got there.  Eventually.

Kevin was terrific with the the gang, directing them with care, confidence – and treats.  The dogs loved him.  And it seemed the feeling was mutual.  By session’s end, as I was packing up, I glanced over and noticed he’d abandoned his camera to better shower  Lulu with belly rubs.

I’ve been on a reading tear of late, blazing through 28 books to date in 2017.  At this pace, I should easily surpass by annual 100 title goal and maybe even challenge my 2014 reading record of 180+ books.  Or not.  Some of my favorite reads so far this year include Revenger, an epic space adventure from Alastair Reynolds, Tade Thompson’s fiercely original SF thriller Rosewater, Matthew De Abaitua’s AI conspiracy The Destructives, the first book of Brian McClennan’s Powder Mage series Promise of Blood, Emily Fridlund’s mesmerizing coming-of-age novel History of WolvesHomo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari’s non-fiction treatise on the intersection and potential merging evolutions of humanity and technology, and The Core of the Sun, Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo’s utterly delightful scifi tale of a capsaicin addict’s descent into the dark world of black market hot peppers.

Many of these books were released in 2016 and yet I’ve heard no mention of them as award season approaches which is altogether baffling (or, to be somewhat indelicate, kinda bullshit).

This weekend, I made it a point to try out a new restaurant – and was richly rewarded with Bar Raval serving Spanish Tapas on College Street.  A few of the culinary highlights of our back-to-back visits: The kitchen bread: red peppers and anchovies.

Crispy cheese, serrano ham, and caramelized onion pastry.

The house-canned scallops conserva served in a garlic tomato oil with a side of chips.

Bacon, chorizon, red pepper and quail egg atop grilled bread.

The Basque cheesecake – Akemi’s favorite.

Their version of a chocolate-hazelnut donut.

Hey Jeff and Barb, maybe the next time you’re in town?

Back at it tomorrow!  Main unit Episodes 309 and 310.  Second unit episodes 308, 309, 310, and 313.  Prep meetings for Episode 311.  And possible Pink pages for Episode 311?!

Don’t push it.

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The first time I met Author X was at a Comic Con party.  We were introduced through a mutual friend.  I didn’t really know much about him but had seen his big fat books at my local bookshop.  As we shook hands, I congratulated him on his success and told him I was looking forward to reading his work as I’d heard very good things.  I was only some five seconds into addressing him, on the tail end of our handshake, when I realized he wasn’t listening to a word I was saying. Instead, his focus had already shifted to the room at large as he scoped the area for more interesting contacts.  I walked off without finishing my sentence.  He didn’t seem to notice.

The second time I met Author X was at a bar, again in the company of that mutual friend.  We were re-introduced but, so far as he was concerned, it may well have been the first time.  Again, I congratulated him on his success.  Again, he pretty much looked straight through me and then spent the next hour or so sitting quietly by himself, glowering, while everyone around him chatted away.

My third experience with Author X wasn’t so much a meeting but a story I heard from someone who’d been on the receiving end of his shitty behavior.

I’ve always been someone who has been able to separate the person from their work.  I may not agree with an author’s political beliefs, but that has never stopped me from reading them.  In fact, I’d say I’ve read terrific books from authors on both ends of the political spectrum – and some equally dreadful books as well.  But my experience with Author X changed things.  I genuinely still intended to purchase one of his novels, but the second I went to pick it up off the shelf, I experienced a sense of revulsion so deep that I actually had to go walk off my anger.  It was a purely Pavlovian response.  The fact that he was an asshole didn’t make him any better or worse a writer.  And, even though I knew it, I nevertheless couldn’t separate my feelings for the author and my distaste at the mere thought of rewarding him with the sale.  So I went home and watched old episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm instead.

So, my question to you:

Are you able to separate the artist from the art?

Does it depend on the circumstances?  If so, where do you draw the line?

On the flip side, here are a couple of artists worthy of your support:

 

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So, going through my list of everything I read in 2016, I note there were a lot more misses than hits last year.  This, in itself, shouldn’t all that surprising.  After all, I’m an admittedly tough reader.  What IS surprising is the disproportionate number of misses resulting from my being foolish enough to place my faith in some of the Best of 2016 lists compiled by various major websites and critics.  Yes, of course, your mileage may vary – but I’m not talking about recommended or starred books that failed to live up to potential or simply “weren’t my thing”.  I’m referring to overwritten, contrived, plodding, clumsily plotted narratives that had no business being on anyone’s “Best Of” list.  Books so bad they seriously had me wondering whether the person praising them even bothered to read them.

I take shitty book recommendations personally.  I invested time and money on a suggested read, time and money that could have been spent discovering better books.  What’s even more infuriating is the traction these critics and websites will continue to give these subpar authors, hooking other unwitting readers with their disingenuous reviews.  Look, I get it.  Your buddy or former co-worker or friend of friend could use the shout-out.  Or the publishing house would REALLY appreciate some good word of mouth.  But, next time, do me a favor and just shill these crap titles as part of your average entry.  By placing them on a Best Of list, you overplay your hand.  And as a result, you end up proving untrustworthy at best; a complete idiot at worst.

As I say: “Fool me once and I’ll never forgive you nor forget it and, someday, I will have my revenge.”

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