This is my long list of novelettes I’ve considered for nomination, largely the list of those I put in the Recommended Reading section of my Locus reviews (with a few additions).
Dale Bailey, "The Donner Party", (F&SF, 1-2/18)
Bo Balder, “A Cigarette Burn in Your Memory”, (Clarkesworld, 1/18)
Gregory Benford, "A Waltz in Eternity", (Galaxy's Edge, 11/18)
Michael Cassutt, “Unter”, (Asimov’s, 7-8/18)
Tina Connolly, “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, (Tor.com, 7/18)
John Crowley, “Flint and Mirror”, (The Book of Magic)
Andy Duncan, “Joe Diabo’s Farewell”, (An Agent of Utopia)
Theodora Goss, “Queen Lily”, (Lightspeed, 11/18)
Daryl Gregory, “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth”, (Tor.com, 9/18)
Kameron Hurley, “Sister Solveig and Mister Denial”, (Amazing, Fall/18)
James Patrick Kelly, "Grace’s Family", (Tor.com, 5/18)
Alex Jeffers, "The Tale of the Ive-Ojan-Akhar’s Death", (Giganotosaurus, 4/18)
Samantha Murray, “Singles’ Day”, (Interzone, 9-10/18)
Alec Nevala-Lee, "The Spires", (Analog, 3-4/18)
Julia Novakova, "The Gift", (Asimov's, 11-12/18)
Justina Robson, "Foxy and Tiggs", (Infinity's End)
Kelly Robson, "Intervention", (Infinity's End)
Karen Russell, "Orange World", (The New Yorker, 6/4/18)
James Sallis, "Dayenu", (LCRW, Spring/18)
Jack Skillingstead, “Straconia”, (Asimov’s, 7-8/18)
Brian Trent, "Crash-Site", (F&SF, 5-6/18)
Carrie Vaughn, “The Hunstman and the Beast”, (Asimov’s, 9-10/18)
The top candidates for my ballot are:
1. Dale Bailey, “The Donner Party” (F&SF, 1-2/18) – a savage look at an alternate version of Victorian England in which the upper classes eat the children of the lower classes. The insecure new wife of an upper class man is put to the test, as it were.
2. James Patrick Kelly, “Grace’s Family” (Tor.com, 5/18) – Grace is a starship, and it’s her job to maintain her family – the humans – and robots – who live on board, while they grow up, and age, and explore. This is fascinating original SF, deeply concerned with the purpose of intelligence in the universe.
3. Alex Jeffers, “The Tale of the Ive-Ojan-Akhar’s Death” (Giganotosaurus, 4/18) – A leisurely and lovely look at the career and life of a diplomat who has largely gone native at his post, the Chinese-flavored Haisn. But, with glosses hinted at by the title entertainment, he gets caught up in political turmoil, and must make a new life. It’s hard for me to describe the continual pleasures of the tale, bound up in the narrator’s self-involved (but generally pleasant) character, the sideways revelations of the nature of Haisn’s culture, the gentle realization of the fate of the narrator (and his faithful servant) after their ejection from Haisn
4. Kelly Robson, “Intervention” (Infinity’s End) -- A very intelligent story about child rearing in a heavily inhabited future Solar System. The narrator is from Luna, where creche work is socially frowned upon, so she leaves to work on an asteroid-based creche – and then later gets a chance to work on a bid to reform Luna’s failing creche system. This is just really interesting social speculation; and the characters are also very solidly portrayed, very honest.
5. Karen Russell, “Orange World” (The New Yorker, 6/4/18) – An older first time mother is driven to make a deal with a literal devil to save the life of her child, and only the intervention of her support group allows her to cope … Really well written, really convincing.
6. James Sallis, “Dayenu” (LCRW, Spring/18) – Perhaps the story of the year, though I have the notion that I might be the only person saying that. Opens with the narrator doing an unspecified but apparently criminal job: so, like a crime story – and Sallis is, after all, primarily a crime novelist. But details of unfamiliarity mount, from the pervasive surveillance to a changed geography, then to the realization that the rehab stint the narrator mentioned right at the start was a rather more extensive rehab than we might have thought. Memories of wartime service are detailed. Page by page the story seems odder, and the destination less expected. The prose is a pleasure too – with desolate rhythms and striking images.
It was hard to leave out stories like Justina Robson’s “Foxy and Tiggs”, Alec Nevala-Lee’s “The Spires”, Tina Connolly’s “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, Daryl Gregory’s “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth”, and Andy Duncan’s “Joe Diabo’s Farewell” – and, really, all the rest. Another great year for SF/F novelettes.