The “Time to Run Some Red Lights” Sippy Awards
for Excellent Action! in Short SFF
The name comes courtesy of the outrage that followed the original release of The Fast and The Furious. No joke, I remember a bunch of articles about how, upon leaving the movie, people were basically much more likely to speed and engage in...not good decisions. Likewise, I’ve seen studies about how listening to music effects how we drive. So I wanted to find the stories that left me feeling amped up. That made me to go fast and take chances. In a weird sort of surprise, most of them are from the very beginning of 2017. Not sure what that means, but there you are. In any event, please make sure your seat belts are securely buckled and that your tray tables are in their full and upright position. In 3...2...1...GO!!!!
The Regular Sippys
"Chesirah," L.D. Lewis (Fiyah) (Novelette)
A caged Fenox, Chesirah is a character who longs for freedom, and who doesn’t shy away from what it takes to get there. The story features a situation where hope is something that burns and sputters, as Fenox is used and used, knowing only that she has to get away while being unable to really plan what that would look like. When her time comes, the piece delivers a powerful and nail-biting sequence of action, hope, and flight. The trajectory of the piece is outward, and I love how, once committed, Chesirah doesn’t slow or stop for anyone and how, after a lifetime of people letting her down, she finds a place to belong and trust and be free.
"Later, Let's Tear Up the Inner Sanctum," A. Merc Rustad (Lightspeed) (Novelette)
Perhaps it’s no surprise to see a story about superheroes show up on this list. And this piece certainly delivers when it comes to explosions and some extremely chilling uses of superpowers. But more than that, it offers a tense experience that blends media and shatters conventions. As the story builds up speed, it becomes a roller coaster of emotional hits, surprises, twists, and devastating revelations. The line between hero and villain is blurred where it’s not blown away, and what remains is an exhilarating story of powers and responsibility.
"Queen of Dirt," Nisi Shawl (Apex) (Short Story)
Magic and teaching and the intangible societal expectations that underpin reality all come out in this story, which finds a woman named Brit using her powers to try and help a group of young people thrive. Brit’s ability is to give form to the forces that plague people, to give physical shape to invisible fears and dreads and oppression, and she does so here in with unsettling results, in a struggle of will and body against a being seeking to co-opt her, to consume her. Only Brit’s got a hell of a lot of fight in her, and the story just captures the intimacy and the stakes of this battle so well, with a power and affirmation that cannot be denied.
"Hungry Demigods" by Andrea Tang (GigaNotoSaurus) (Novelette)
So a story about cooking might not seem like the most tense, but this piece moves with a quick pace and a fantastic focus on sensation. The main character is blind, and their world is full of smells and tastes as the action largely centers around the magic of food and family. This is also a bit of a romantic piece, but what sticks with me is the energy that the characters bring to the plot, which features gods and forces stranger still all vying for the soul of a man who doesn’t really understand what’s happening but who, together with the main character, must stand against a maelstrom of magic and expectation. It’s a thrilling (and delicious!) read.
“Requiem for the Unchained," Cae Hawksmoor (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) (Short Story)
The souls of the dead form storms that can tear airships apart. Pilots risk life and limb flying between cities, between ports, while larger corporations can afford cutting-edge technology designed to keep the storms at bay. And the main character, a pilot who lost her wife and sailing partner, is desperate for money so that she doesn’t lose her ship. Which is not really a winning combination if you’re hoping to read about a quiet evening in. Fortunately, if you’re looking for a pulse-pounding, breathless, edge-of-your-seat story that snatches victory from the jaws of defeat and despair...good news! The story revolves around the weight the main character carries, her guilt which still can’t quell her need to fly, to die on her feet. It also can’t quell her impulse for justice and doing the right thing, even if it’s dangerous. Even if it means risking everything she has left. The world building here is stunning, though, and the feeling of flight, impending disaster, and narrow escapes. There are some unforgettable visuals and never-say-die fuck you attitude that the main character has that made me want to read whole novels of her further journeys. It’s truly an amazing story!
And there you have it! Congrats and thank you to all of these wonderful stories. It’s back to your regularly scheduled reviews for now, but stop back in next week for the fifth and final Sippy Awards post. Cheers!