As with Best Short Story and Best Novelette, I’m not going to record my own preferences, just the fact that I’ve read this category. I will say that I thought these were all really good, and whoever it was that said that sf is at its best at novella length had a point. (I’ll also add that during eligibility research we found that several were just the merest shade under the 40,000 word limit for novellas!)
Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Her father, a little subdued and worn out after his day at the clinic where he worked, sat across from her. He was a big man, with square shoulders and square hands, and always carried the faintest scent of fur and sweat on his skin. He wasn’t the only large-animal veterinarian in the area, but he was known as the best, and his ability to coax even the furthest-gone foal into eating had saved a lot of horses since he’d opened his practice. Regan’s riding lessons came at a discount because the owners recognized that having the local vet’s only daughter utterly in love with their horses was the opposite of a bad thing.
Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Nyrgoth Elder was seven feet tall, gaunt, clad in slate robes that glittered with golden sigils, intricate beyond the dreams of tailors. Lyn imagined a legion of tiny imps sewing that rich quilted fabric with precious metal, every tiny convolution fierce with occult meaning. His hands were long-fingered, long-nailed; his face was long, too: high-cheekboned, narrow-eyed, the chin and cheeks rough with dark stubble. His skin was the sallow of old paper. He had horns. In the old pictures, she’d thought they were a crown he wore, but there they were, twin twisted spires that arched from his brows, curving backwards along his high forehead and into his long, swept-back hair. She would have said he was more than half monster if she hadn’t known he was something half god. He was the last scion of the ancient creators who had, the stories said, placed people on the world and taught them how to live.
Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard. Second paragraph of third chapter:
It burnt. The tea burnt. Soggy tea leaves caught fire right in the throne room, in full view of everyone else. Not just in her nightmares or in her bedroom.
The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente. Second and third paragraphs of third chapter:
When I remember hunting my name, I mostly remember the places I slept. It’s a real dog to find good spots. Someplace sheltered from the wind, without too much seawater seep, where no one’ll yell at you for wastreling on their patch or try to stick it in you in the middle of the night just because you’re all alone and it looks like you probably don’t have a knife.
I always have a knife.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Dex realized, slowly, still naked, still dripping, that the robot wanted them to shake its hand.
A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Primrose’s castle is about a thousand times better. The stone is smooth and cool beneath my tennis shoes and the torch brackets smell of oil and char. My dress isn’t polyester and plastic; it hangs heavy on my shoulders, literal pounds of burgundy velvet and gold thread. I try to walk like Primrose, a glide so delicate it suggests my feet touch the earth only by happenstance.
NB this last includes some gorgeous interior illustrations by Arthur Rackham.