Yesterday SciFiMonth’s daily prompt was one small step: Short form SF.

I read a lot of short story collections. Especially now that I don’t have so much time to read, I appreciate novellas, novellettes, and short stories even more. So it was hard to narrow the list down.

1, Martha Wells: All Systems Red

The first novella in the Murderbot Diaries. The main character is a Security Unit, SecUnit, who is an android with both mechanical parts and cloned biological parts. It’s designed for security on various sites. Despite the fact that it’s (it doesn’t have gender nor sexual parts) clearly a thinking and feeling being, legally it’s the property of the company and not a person. The Murderbot has hacked its control unit and just wants to be left alone and watch the shows it loves. (Don’t we all??)

The series is written in first person and a lot depends on if you like the voice. I love it and the series.

2, Lois McMaster Bujold: Mountains of Mourning

This is one of the few novellas in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. You don’t have to read the books to get the story.

A distressed young woman, Harra, comes to beg justice from her Count, Miles’ father. Her child was born with a hare-lip and a hole on the roof of her mouth. According to old customs, the baby would have been killed at birth by the mother but the new generation is struggling to put such customs behind them. However, Harra’s baby was killed and Harra is convinced that her husband has done it. The Count sends young Miles to the small village to find out the truth.

This is a wonderful story but quite downbeat.

3, Becky Chambers: To Be Taught if Fortunate

Four highly trained and competent people explore alien planets. They’re in cryosleep when they travel, so they know that if they ever return to Earth, everything will be different. They are cuff off from Earth and can only rely on each other.

4, Suzanne Palmer: Bots of the Lost Ark

Maintenance bots need to take over a ship where the crew is asleep. A hilarious short story published on Apex.

5, JY Yang: Bridge of Crows

A hauntingly beautiful tale told in a format of a story inside a story. The unnamed narrator tells the tale of a young woman who is walking through a barren land on a desperate quest. Published in Mythic Dreams anthology.

6, Adrian Tchaikovsky: Elder Race

This novella had two POV characters. Lyn (third person POV) is young and eager to be a hero, somebody her mother will acknowledge. Her worldview has magic and demons. Nyr (first person POV) is a scientist with a scientific worldview. He also struggles with guilt from his previous transgression and he’s very lonely and depressed.

7, Tobias S. Buckell: A Jar of Godwill

The gedda are an alien race whose economics are based on patent rights on the technology. Since they’ve previously developed tech that humans use, they own the patents. Alex is a professional friend. A genetically engineered human (a hermaphrodite) whose job is to, essentially, keep humans sane in the vastness of space with empathy and touch (not necessarily sex). However, Alex’s account is overdrawn and his only chance is to take a job in an approaching spaceship full of scientists. Alex’s job is to befriend a drone, another engineered human who is part of a hive mind but who is now far away from the hive. Published in the “Final Frontier” anthology.

8, John Scalzi: The Dispatcher

In this world, people can’t be murdered because anyone who is killed intentionally comes back. The main character is a dispatcher: his job is to humanely put down people who need it.

9, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Becalmed

A Diving universe novella but you don’t need to read any of the other stories.

Mae is one of three people who are still alive from her group of twenty-seven linguists. They went down to a planet to meet with and learn from people who are reputed to be extremely violent. Mae returned caked in blood and with no memory of what happened to her and the rest of her team.

It’s about a culture clash and it’s also a psychological story where Mae struggles with the past she doesn’t want to know.

10, Connie Wills: Fire Watch

Time traveling to the past is hard. But it’s even harder when you’ve been preparing to walk with Saint Paul himself – and are sent instead to St. Paul’s in the middle of air raids. The main character tries to prepare as well as possible, but it might not be enough.

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