"Water, Floor, Leaves" by Katrina S. Forest (2870 words)
This story doesn't waste any time in capturing the theme as April, an athlete of a game involving powers and a ball and a net, laments a string of poor performances and the indignity of being stuck with a partner. Deaf, she resents the thought that people think she needs help, and the story does a good job exploring her hesitation, her fear. It also does a great job of making the sport fun, fast, and interesting. The players move about the field with power, their abilities flashing, their athleticism and creativity shining. More than anything, though, the story is about trust, about working as a team. Or a pair, at least. April and her partner, Travis, have to get beyond their particular hangups and work together, find a way to trust each other in order to overcome an opposing team that's playing for keeps. The world building is light but the premise is fun, and the story does a good job of establishing and fleshing out the game, showing that there is a lot more to it than just getting a ball in a net. It's a fun story, and unapologetically so, celebrating the simple joy of playing a game and connecting with another person, working together toward a goal and doing well. And it certainly sells the idea that watching such a contest would be quite entertaining.
"The 1st Annual Lunar Biathalon" by Rachel K. Jones (5043 words)
"One for the Team" by MCM (3224 words)
Well that is one entertaining story. Really, I don't think I stopped smiling throughout. It's a bit brutal, but it's also hilarious and fun and would probably make for an incredibly interesting viewing experience if it were an actual sport. The story shows a team of players in a game where the goal is to collect little robots that whip around and bring them back to your goal while dealing with full contact hits from the other team. In an effort to make the game safer, there are penalties for hard hits where the team hit gains three to six points and the team that does the hitting loses a point. [SPOILERS PROBABLY FROM HERE] And the main characters are a hundred points behind at the half. Faced with such a gap, they decide to take one for the team by gaming the system at the expense of their bodies. The result is great, is fun and visceral and shows that sort of underdog/never-say-die spirit twisted to something that most people would say is cheating. And yet when your greatest asset is being able to take a hit, there is something compelling about not shying away from it. Something fun and freeing and fresh and just good. It's not often that I laugh out loud when reading, but this story got me there, and especially after that last story this was the much needed cathartic release. A great, great story and an amazing way to close out the issue. Hurrah!