I've got three orders of business for this post:
- Tell you about a new short story award from Compelling Science Fiction,
- Give you my short story reviews for the month of July, and
- Ask you all to vote on your favorite design for a new Compelling Science Fiction t-shirt! (Here's the poll)
Ever since Compelling Science Fiction stopped publishing short stories I've been looking for ways to engage with the science fiction community that don't involve me reading a submission queue of 500 stories/month. I'm still thinking about different approaches, but in the meantime I'm announcing a fun project: every month I'm going to send a t-shirt to the author that writes the short story that scores the highest on the set of axes that best represent Compelling Science Fiction (plausibility/novelty/entertainment).
I'm going to print up some more of the original Compelling Science Fiction shirts (my inventory fell victim to the inferno that claimed my house in December), but I also want to create a new set of shirts, and I'd like your opinion! There's a poll at the bottom of this post that I'd love you to vote in.
I read 31 short stories for the month of July — certainly not all of the published stories in all professional venues like I was intending, but seeing as it's already September, I need to get started on the August stories! Based on the stories I read, here are the top 3 for the month of July:
- Carapace, by David Goodman, published in Clarkesworld
- Termination Stories for the Cyberpunk Dystopia Protagonist, by Isabel J. Kim, published in Clarkesworld
- We May Be Better Strangers, by Mjke Wood, published in Analog
So Carapace by David Goodman is the first winner of the Compelling Science Fiction Appreciation Award! It was a very fun military science fiction story about an AI combat suit that lost its owner and gained some unexpected training data sets. The imaginative setting stuck with me, and I thought the story was a unique twist on the 'tool becomes more than it was designed for' trope.
Termination Stories for the Cyberpunk Dystopia Protagonist by by Isabel J. Kim was a close second for the month of July. I don't often enjoy stories set inside metaverse-style video games, but this story was a memorable paragon of that genre, with the story told from the perspective of an AI NPC. It contains at least one great pun.
Rounding out the top three for the month is We May Be Better Strangers, by Mjke Wood. I loved the generation ship and the final reflection, but the story had some issues. Sub-light spaceships going from parsecs to light-minutes away in hours, etc. but I enjoyed the story despite its flaws.
I started Compelling Science Fiction many years ago partly as an excuse to make cool t-shirts. This is only kind of a joke. I'm a big fan of nicely fitted, extremely comfortable shirts made out of high-quality cotton/polyester blends (usually 60/40), and that's what I've been making since the magazine started. I've had 4 people tell me it's the best shirt they've ever owned. I don't kid around with my t-shirts.
I've wanted to print up some more shirts ever since I lost all my clothes to the inferno back in late December, and I'm finally going to do it! In addition to the original shirt design, I want to do one more, and that's where this poll comes in. Below are eight different astronaut designs that I think reflect Compelling Science Fiction's lack of taking itself too seriously, and I'd love it if you'd tell me your favorite. Please ask your friends too, if your friends have good taste! Here's the poll.