“The Venus Effect,” by Joseph Allen Hill

Lightspeed, December 2016
Lightspeed, December 2016

“The Venus Effect,” by Joseph Allen Hill.
Novelette. Published in Lightspeed, December 2016.

I’ve chosen this story based on Abigail Nussbaum’s strong recommendation:

It’s not an exaggeration to say that stories like this one are why I keep doing this, rooting through hundreds of short stories on the off chance of happening on one, by an author I’ve never heard of, that completely blows me away.  I don’t want to say too much about “The Venus Effect”‘s plot, both because it’s a surprise worth preserving, and because to describe the story is to make it sound like so much less than what it is–too academic, too gimmicky, too preachy.  This is a story about stories, and about who gets to be the hero in the core stories of our genre.  It shouldn’t work–the tack Hill chooses should come off as glib, and the structure he comes up with should devolve into repetition–and yet, amazingly, it does.  If there’s one story on this list that I’d like you to read, “The Venus Effect” is it.

If Nussbaum wants us to read it, then read it we shall!


What did you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!

2017 Nebula Novelette Nominees

SFWA Nebula Awards

This week we’re shaking up our usual format, and taking on the Nebula nominees in the Novelette category — those of them available online, anyway.

So we’ll be discussing:

We’ll also discuss “Red in Tooth and Cog,” by Cat Rambo, which was nominated for a Nebula, but fell between the cracks of the wordcount categories (and ultimately judged in the short story category, at 7,070 words).

What do you think of this batch of Nebula nominees? Which make you squee, and which make you snark? Join the discussion in the comments!

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay,” by Alyssa Wong

Uncanny May/June 2016
Uncanny May/June 2016

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay,” by Alyssa Wong.
Published in Uncanny, May/June 2016.


Vanessa Fogg sums this one up:

Her latest story in Uncanny Magazine is classic Alyssa Wong: intense, visceral writing; searing imagery; building horror. An orphan in this alternate Wild West can bring dead things back to life—and perhaps put them to rest as well. Skeletons rise, dead things dance, and there’s an unforgettable scene involving a chicken. In the end, it’s also a beautiful story of loss and love.

The reviewers at OneMore dig deep into the piece:

Full disclosure: I love the desert and I love myth-making. Any story that can combine the two, bringing the desert to haunting life until you can hear the dead and smell the hot breeze is almost certain to win me over.

(…) Is it about trying to come to terms with your heritage? About not fitting in and being unsure where there’s a place for you? Possibly. It’s certainly about love and loyalty and what we’re prepared to sacrifice. And it’s definitely uncanny. Excellent stuff.

Charles Payseur observes:

This is a story that equal parts strange and bleak and beautiful to me, like the desert. Like doomed love. (…) In many ways I read the story as about how sometimes there’s no escaping a situation, a place. Sometimes who you are, who your parents are, and the machinations and plots of those with more power, are damning and inescapable. Which is not to say that those situations are hopeless.

And at Hollywood The Write Way, Melody writes:

This story is a great exploration of what it’s like living with a curse in a survival of the fittest, use everyone for personal gain society, what it means to embrace your identity. It’s a fine exploration of power and expectations, love and boundaries, fear and the limitations it brings, it allows for, it thrives in. Grief and holding on. Moving on. What an intensely rich and sobering mirror of real life.


What did you think? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments below!

“The Dancer on the Stairs,” by Sarah Tolmie

“The Dancer on the Stairs,” by Sarah Tolmie.
Novelette. Published in Tolmie’s Two Travelers, and reprinted in Strange Horizons, November 2016.

This story was recommended for discussion by Cecily Kane.


Nina Allen wrote:

Tolmie has a careful, controlled, poised style that is the epitome of elegance – a kind of literary dressage, or dancing, in fact. Her poetical investigations into human rituals, creativity and modes of belief make her fiction some of the most interesting new work around at the moment.

Charles Payseur wrote:

This is a long and intricate story that unfolds like a dance, a very fascinating portal fantasy that looks very different from what I’m used to. It features a woman taken from a world that sounds very much like our own and put into a place that is basically one huge house. One enormous building with floors connected by a very special stairway. And it’s a great reversal of what normally happens in portal fantasies, where the main character is some sort of Chosen One. Here the woman is the lowest of the low, without the currency that would make her even able to leave the stairs she finds herself on. What follows is a rough education and the slow reveal of this society. […]

It’s a great and moving story that’s enchanting and magical and elegantly layered. An excellent read! 

Rocket Stack Rank is less enthralled. Among their criticisms:

The story takes forever to get going. […] None of the characters is developed well enough for us to feel any emotions about them.


What’s your take on  “The Dancer on the Stairs”?  Read the story, and join in the discussion in the comments below!

“Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home,” by Genevieve Valentine

Clarkesworld, Issue 121, October 2016
Clarkesworld, Issue 121, October 2016

“Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home,” by Genevieve Valentine.
Published in Clarkesworld, October 2016.


Lots of reviews for this one — most of them full of spoilers! So go, read — or take this pull quote as incentive:

This is the single best warning and commentary on modern humanity I have ever read. Not only is it beautifully written, but insightful and deep. (…) It is a commentary made all the more potent by recent events. Do not miss this story. Read it until it sinks in.

Here’s all the reviews, in all their spoilerific glory:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow


What did you think of “Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home”? What’s your take on it? Join the discussion in the comments!

“Finnegan’s Field,” by Angela Slatter

“Finnegan’s Field,” by Angela Slatter. Tor.com. Novelette.

I loved Slatter’s “Of Sorrow and Such” last year; excellent dark fantasy, to the hilt. This one looks like it touches on fae and changeling children.

Content Warning: Difficult material in this one. Specific content warning in the first comment.

Read the story:

Finnegan’s Field