My votes for BSFA Short Fiction

The deadline is coming up, and I still haven't finished Glorious Angels (which maybe says something in itself), but I have re-read all the short fiction on the BSFA list, and will vote as below. I'm expanding my second-paragraph-of-third-chapter-or-section approach to include the short stories not separately published, with a little difficulty in a couple of cases.

5) “No Rez”, by Jeff Noon

Second paragraph of third section:

and now we move on
away from the projectors’ reach, far away
into the areas beyond the city, where the endless blue fields
touch the endless blue skies
with no visible horizon separating them
only the blue world, endless, endless…
until the blue starts to fray a little
and at last we kiss, Colleen and I
our two faces covered in cloth
our covered mouths, now touching
where our fingers tear the cloth away
and now our eyes are seen, uncovered
the blue cloth on our faces in shreds
and now Colleen reaches out to the distant sky
and her hand touches the sky, a few feet away
the blue cloth sky, and she takes a penknife
clicks out the blade, the tiny shining blade
and slices into the blue
and together, at last, at last, we climb through
and now, at long last, yes, finally

The story has very specific formatting, and only three sections, the last of which has only three paragraphs, so the above is the penultimate para of the whole story. I confess that I did not understand it at all. I must be getting old.

4) “Ride the Blue Horse”, by Gareth Powell

Second paragraph of third section:

The first three were full of plasma TVs, electric kettles, and other unusable junk. The fourth was empty, and the fifth strewn with the discarded rags of a shipment of long-forgotten immigrants.

A vignette about two lads finding an abandoned but usable Ford Mustang in a post-apocalyptic America. Felt to me the wrong length, more like the start of a longer story than a story in it's own right. Also didn't quite seem American enough in setting.

3) Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

Second paragraph of third section:

When the officer handed me my astrolabe, I resisted the urge to snatch it back. He was an old Khoush man, so old that he was privileged to wear the blackest turban and face veil. His shaky hands were so gnarled and arthritic that he nearly dropped my astrolabe. He was bent like a dying palm tree and when he’d said, “You have never traveled; I must do a full scan. Remain where you are,” his voice was drier than the red desert outside my city. But he read my astrolabe as fast as my father, which both impressed and scared me. He’d coaxed it open by whispering a few choice equations and his suddenly steady hands worked the dials as if they were his own.

Some people have been raving about this, but I don't really see why. The plot (plucky kid survives alien attack, makes peace between aliens and humans) is hardly original, and the fact that the protagonist's tribal adornments uniquely give her protection against the aliens is pretty cliched. Yes, well written; yes, interesting characters; no, not a masterpiece.

2) “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight”, by Aliette de Bodard

Second paragraph of third section:

She was alive. She was sane. At least…

This is good stuff – genetic engineering, cyborg spaceships, and tea, all packed together for a big emotional punch about grief and bereavement and moving on. The author is Guest of Honour at Eastercon which may well boost her chances.

1) Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The dry stone walls along the way weren’t in a good state of repair, but as the houses gave way to the edge of the forest, they didn’t look like they were going to fall over any time soon either. These stones had been laid with care by those who knew that all the old crafts had a hidden dimension to them, that the placing of a bonder stone changed everything.

The only story on the list that made it onto my Hugo nomination ballot. Very solid and also moving, an exploration of rural England at the intersection between old and new forces, the evils of Mammon and the good of community, and the necessity of balancing past, present and possible futures. Do I even detect a partial homage to Terry Pratchett? Anyway, I liked it a lot and it gets my vote.