Book log - Hugo 2017 short stories

I wrote some notes as I went along with the Hugo short story nominees, which I then failed to post soon enough to be of any help to anyone else. Never mind. Here they are anyway...

Given in the order in which I read them. I'd be happy to vote for any of these, and picking an order is going to be difficult.

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong

Two sisters, both weather workers, both capable of bending time back on itself and trying another timeline. It starts with one burning up in her own flame; it ends with the other still searching for a timeline in which her sister can live. In between we learn much about them and the different paths they have taken. It's raw emotion delivered in skillful prose, and not only supports but demands a second reading to understand the layers. The idea of a fan or network of timelines spreading out and being able to step from one strand to another is not new; but this use of the concept is an emotionally wrenching read.

Published by and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

One woman is required to wear out seven pairs of iron shoes. Another sits atop a glass hill too slippery to climb. El-Mohtar considers what might happen when the woman of one fairy tale walks into the other story, and subverts the subtext of both. "Subverts" is rather too weak a word here - it dances on the subtext with hobnailed boots. Possibly too much so, but then there's a lot of subtext in fairy stories that needs to be dragged into the light and examined. This particular happy ending is one that I can believe has a chance at being happy ever after. It's sweet but not saccharine.

There's a lot to like in this story, but I was especially taken with the short scene in which the women run a scientific experiment with the golden apples meant to be a reward for the Hero who manages to climb the mountain. It left me wanting to buy the anthology it was originally published in.

First published in the anthology "The Starlit Wood" . Reprinted in Uncanny Tales (available free online). There's an interesting discussion of it at Short Story Squee and Snark.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander

A short tale of a harpy's sweet revenge. Too short to review without giving away too much, but fabulous use of language that brings the narrator to vivid life in a commentary on modern media's portrayal of women.

Published in Uncanny Tales (available free online)

That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn

"The people of Gaant are telepaths. The people of Enith are not. The two countries have been at war for decades, but now peace has fallen, and Calla of Enith seeks to renew an unlikely friendship with Gaantish officer Valk over an even more unlikely game of chess."

A short story that explores some of the ramifications of full telepathy, and does so through a pair of fascinating characters and their unfolding friendship. The chess game is indeed a metaphor for the war, and gives some idea of how a non-telepathic nation could have held its own against an army of telepaths, but it's the characterisation that makes this story shine. Calla and and Valk have each been a prisoner under the control of the other as fortunes have shifted over the war; Calla working as a nurse in her own side's military hospital treating prisoners of war that include Valk, and then as a trustee prisoner in a Gaantish hospital desperately in need of nursing staff. The chess game starts as a way to pass time, a way to take their minds off the situation they're in, and becomes much more.

Published by and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The City Born Great by NK Jemesin

Great cities come alive, and in this short story they do so in a most literal fashion. But there are things out there that feed on new life, and a city needs a midwife to guard it as it struggles to birth itself. Our protaganist is a young black man in New York who half believes, half disbelieves a new friend's tales of living cities and his role in New York's story - right up until the monsters try to come for him. Stunning fantasy story deeply rooted in a deftly depicted metropolis.

Published by and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

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one week to publication day

So the countdown begins to the release of my short story collection. :-) Stormy Nights is now available for pre-order direct from the publisher's website and from all the usual suspects including SmashWords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and the many and varied Amazons - UK, US, AU or search on your local 'Zon for the ASIN B073RRNKBD.

Official list price is US$3.99. Looks like local prices are currently £3.09-£3.49 and AU$5.25 for the UK and Oz.


Sex and love, lies and truth, shades in between. Happy endings and might-have-beens. Nine tales of these things between men.

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knitting gadgets - row counters

I cashed out a load of about to expire frequent flyer points onto an Amazon gift voucher, so I indulged in a batch of cheap tat from China for my knitting basket. (And then got seduced by the Chinese fountain pens, but those are for another post...)

Estone 4 pcs Plastic Knit Knitting Needles Pride Row Counter 2 Sizes New by HeroNeo

Cheap and cheerful. They're not great quality and the finish is fairly crude, but they do the job, on the pack I received there are no rough bits to snag your wool, and you get a pack of four for under a quid. The description says 2 small and 2 large; you actually get 2 small and 2 medium if you're comparing with the name brands, so you'll need to look elsewhere if you want ones for needles above 7 mm or so. I wouldn't use these as my primary row counters, but I bought them to have some spares to avoid swapping my good ones on and off needles all the time and for the knitting bag at work. These would be fine if you were looking for some cheap row counters to kit out a novice knitter. I bought them on UK Amazon at

That product code doesn't exist on Amazon US, but I found a two pack ( ) and a ten pack ( ) under various other names which seems to be the same thing. Weirdly, these are more expensive per counter than the UK pack.

HeroNeo® 1 pc Mini Multi Purpose Knit Knitting Stitch Row Counter Pendant Style New

This looked pretty cheap and nasty when it arrived, not least because the seam where the front and back clip together wasn't properly sealed. It turned out to work perfectly well, and I'm pleased I bought it. The counter clicks solidly, it's easy to adjust the numbers, and it has a lock so you don't accidentally click the counter when it's packed up for the night. I suspect it won't last more than a year or two of use, but good value for the £1.15 or so I paid for it on Amazon UK:

Again, a gazillion different offerings under different brand names on Amazon US at wildly different prices, but this one admits to being the same model:

Liroyal Useful Electronic Row Counter Finger Ring Golf Digit Stitch Marker LCD Tally Counter

This is intended to be worn as a ring. Alas, personally I found it got in the way when I was using it for knitting. It is, however, a nice little electronic tally counter that will be very useful as long as I have somewhere to put it down (or wear it on a cord around my neck). The one I received was well made. It's very light, the count and reset buttons have a good positive response, the reset button is much smaller and needs more force than the count button so you're unlikely to press it by accident, and it has an adjustable flexible plastic strap. The screen blanks to save power when it isn't used for a while, but it retains the last count. The battery is included (and indeed there is no simple way to change it). The main potential drawback that I can see with it is that the only reset option is to zero it, whereas the mechanical row counters can generally be adjusted to a different number.

Prices vary wildly on Amazon depending on seller and brand name, and as far as I can see they're all the same actual item. I paid 67p for mine, the same item has gone up to 82p a month later, and there are entries under other product codes at ten times that price. Amazon UK: Amazon US: There are also multi-pack offerings which would be useful if kitting out a class.

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