Earlier this week, I posted my thoughts on the best novel of 2017, and now its time for short stories. I’ve been reading lots of them lately, wrapping up round one of my magazine quest, reading for rounds two and three, and working on another reading project that I’ll announce when the magazine quest finishes. You’d think I’d have a ton of candidates to choose from, but many of the stories I read were from 2016 or earlier, and I only gave high ratings to a small percentage of stories. So, it was fairly easy to narrow my choices down to a small group:
“Shini Tai” by CL Werner, which appeared in Lyonesse, was the frontrunner in my mind. When I started looking into the author’s work to find similar stories to read, I discovered that the story was a reprint, having originally appeared elsewhere around 2010. So, it’s not 2017-award eligible.
“The Last Winter” by AR Aston was probably my second-favorite story in the magazine, followed by Declan Finn’s “Zombie Jamboree” and “The Dragon’s Teeth” by David Hallquist. So, I’ll keep those three stories in mind.
I enjoyed “Day Worker” by Andrew Lucas, from Just a Minor Malfunction. There was an interesting character aspect, when the protagonist was given the technical skills to do heart surgery as a twelve-year-old, but not the emotional maturity to deal with a patient dying on the operating table during a risky operation. A technology-related aspect of the ending was also interesting, when [major spoiler here] the character’s brain tumor fools the system into thinking he is capable of making programming tweaks to the society’s computer systems, but he accidentally overwrites their code with nonsense and throws their civilization into collapse.
I’m considering two stories from StoryHack. “A Tiger in the Garden” by Alexandru Constantin has some nice worldbuilding, and I really enjoyed how one character was set up as the antagonist, but when the chips were down, he threw in with the good guys. I also enjoyed the urban-fantasy worldbuilding in Jay Barnson’s “Dead Last”, and the way the tables were turned on the bad guy.
From Stupefying Stories, I rated “Catch of the Day” by Kurt Hyatt highly, but at the moment, I can’t remember the specifics of why I liked it so much. I’ll either have to re-read it, or remove it from consideration for not sticking in my memory as much as some of my other candidates.
In addition to reading short stories for my magazine quest, I’ve been reading anthologies for another project. A handful of stories from those anthologies have made it onto my shortlist.
I’m a big Monster Hunter fan, so I picked up the Monster Hunter Files. I’ll write up a review in the future, but for now, I’ll say that it’s an enjoyable experience for fans of the series, but maybe not the best entry point for those unfamiliar with it.
I was surprised that “Mr. Natural” by Jody Lynn Nye was one of my favorite stories, probably my single favorite story, from the magazine. I’ve read stories by her in other anthologies, and while I didn’t think they were terrible, I also didn’t say “wow, I want more of that!”
“Mr. Natural” has a team of Vietnam veterans, during or shortly after the Vietnam war, sent to rescue a commune of hippies (the same type of people who’d been spitting on the vets and calling them baby-killers) from a paranormal event in Minnesota. I’d love to see these vets get their own spin-off book series.
Larry Correia, Jim Butcher, and Mike Kupari also had excellent stories in the collection, but the Vietnam vets have really stuck with me, and I think Nye’s story relies less on earlier works in the series, so if I choose a Monster Hunter story as my nomination, it will probably be “Mr. Natural”.
I haven’t finished reading the ‘Weird Western’ Straight Outta Tombstone, but I’ve run across some interesting stories already. “Chance Corrigan and the Lord of the Underworld” by Michael Stackpole is one of the best. I don’t normally like steampunk stories, but this one has a bad guy with three layers of bad: he’s cheating his employees out of wages, trying to end democracy around the world, and calling on occult powers. The good guy in the story turns the tables on the bad guy, using the bad guy’s own setup.
I also enjoyed “The Buffalo Hunters” by Sam Knight, where a Russian nobleman visits the great plains for a buffalo hunt, and “Bubba Shackleford’s Professional Monster Killers” by Larry Correia, which is a prequel to the above-mentioned Monster Hunter series.
Let me know what you think of any of the stories above, or if there’s another collection of 2017 stories I should read before the nomination deadline.