Recently I realized that I was only reviewing things so that I could criticize them. Not only is that unhelpful, seeing as how a lot of these things are works of short science fiction older than I am, it's unhealthy - constantly seeking out things you don't like only has negative effects, psychologically and physiologically. So in the spirit of being more helpful and more healthy, I've been inspired to start out this irregular series looking at current bits of fiction that I think are good and worth your time.
My own bits will be brief, because I'd rather you spend your time with the authors.
"Of Peach Trees and Coral-Red Roses" by Mina Li
I'm not too familiar with Li's work. In fact, this was the first thing of hers I'd read, but when she brings skill like this to the page, I'm certain it won't be the last. This is a fantasy story that I felt did a thought-provoking job at not only inverting the typical fairy-tale-princess setup but weaving deeper meanings into it. I don't know if they were intended by Li or it's just a result of me bringing myself to the table, but good stories aren't inert; they start internal conversations. "Of Peach Trees and Coral-Red Roses" had my brain chugging for a while afterward, so it's successful in that regard. Plus, I know things I didn't know before, like the notions of good fortune associated with peach trees and bamboo. It's a worthwhile story that broadens your horizons, and this is one of them.
It's free to read at Kaleidotrope, so I suggest you do it!
"The Last," by Premee Mohamed
When I was in high school in Central Ontario they made us read CanLit. So much CanLit. Stories about people in the cold north woods, in the windswept prairies, in the frozen Arctic, people alone and struggling with the angry environment at every turn. If I'd had stories to read like Premee Mohamed's "The Last," I would have enjoyed it a lot more. This story is so very Canadian - drippingly, meltingly so. I mean, it is a story about cowboys that wrangle sentient icebergs. I read this on my smartphone browser and couldn't put it down. It has a fine, polished edge and a cold heart - much like an iceberg, in fact! This will definitely be on my Aurora nomination list for next year, because it is that good. Mohamed is another author I expect to go far in the years ahead.
"Runtime," by S.B. Divya
Finally, people are realizing that novellas can stand on their own. "Runtime" is one of the first standalone novellas to come out of Tor.com Publishing, and in the low-word-count constraints of the form S.B. Divya has created a future that feels real, alternatively gleaming and grimy, hopeful and hopeless. It pivots around Marmeg, an eighteen-year-old cyborg who upgrades herself with rebuilt parts rescued from behind dumpsters and can write fresh code in minutes, and her struggle to win a punishing rough-country footrace. It's rich with the technical crunchiness that you might expect from an Analog story, coupled with a good human core. The characters were well-built, and the world felt like a logical extension of the present day, rather than a logical extension of, say, 1977.
I read this one as a physical, printed copy, and I suspect that heightened my like of it even more, but read it however you want to! This one is definitely in the running for a Hugo, and it'll be on my nominating list next year.