2009 BSFA Short Fiction award

2009 BSFA Short Fiction award

The British Science Fiction Association presents annual awards to the best in four categories (Novel, Short Fiction, Artwork and Non-Fiction) as determined by the votes of the members. The six stories in the Short Fiction category were included in a booklet sent out to members. By the time I worked my way to it through my ever-growing pile of reading material I was (as usual) too late to vote, but this is my take on them anyway. Two of them had previously been published in Interzone magazine so have already been mentioned in this blog, but I'll paste my comments in here to save you searching for them:

Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster (first published in Interzone 220): a fantasy in which everyone wears a mask in public – a mask which determines their personalities and the events they are involved in. It is illegal to be seen in public without one, so every morning people have to choose which identity to adopt from their varied collections of masks. But there are some who reject the idea and try to develop their own independent personalities.

Johnny and Emmy-Lou Get Married by Kim Lakin-Smith (first published in Interzone 222): 1950s-style romance across the boundaries of futuristic US gangs, the Rocketeers and the Flies.

The Push by Dave Hutchinson (first published in The Push, Newcon Press): a long short story about planetary colonisation. One of the original founders of a colony on a distant planet returns several centuries later (although only a few years for him as the result of the temporal effects of the FTL space travel technology) to discover that a previously non-sentient native race had suddenly acquired intelligence - and that meant trouble.

Vishnu at the Cat Circus (extract) by Ian McDonald (first published in Cyberabad Days, Gollancz): set in a future fragmented India, the ancient genetically-enhanced owner of a circus of performing cats tells the story of his early life.

The Beloved Time of their Lives by Ian Watson & Roberto Quaglia (first published in The Beloved Of My Beloved, Newcon Press): Two lovers keep meeting, the man growing steadily older as he works his way back though time to keep meeting his ever-younger lover.

The Assistant by Ian Whates (first published in The Solaris Book of Science Fiction, Volume 3): the cleaning squad enters the office building for their night job, but it involves a lot more than just physical cleaning; there are cyber attacks and infiltration by mini robots to deal with too.

I couldn't really evaluate Ian MacDonald's extract as it is abruptly cut short before it gets anywhere, and makes no sense by itself with a complete disconnect between the protagonist's early and late lives. For inventive and original fantasy I would choose Eugie Foster's story, but being a sucker for traditional SF my personal favourite was Dave Hutchinson's tale; it could have been written at any time in the past few decades but is none the worse for that.

PS Having written the above, I checked the BSFA site and found that the Watson/Quaglia story had won the award. I found that one a bit irritating because of the way in which the meetings were curtailed because the couple kept making the same mistake.

(This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)