Where to find me at DisCon III

I plan to be at DisCon III, the World Science Fiction Convention, December 15 to 19 in Washington, DC. I’m scheduled for two panels and one activity:

Stroll with the Stars, 9 a.m. Friday, Hotel Lobby. Meet up with facilitator Debra Nickelson for the now-traditional morning stroll. (I may not be a star, but I’ll get to hang out with people who are. I may have a fangirl moment.)

Translation Slam, 4 p.m. Friday in the Cabinet Room. Many of us enjoy reading speculative fiction in translation, but we might not appreciate the nuanced work that goes into creating it. In this translation slam, each panelist has translated a piece from its original language into English. They will share their translations with the audience and discuss their decision-making process and the nuances that went into their choices. I will discuss adapting beautiful Spanish prose to beautiful English prose. What makes something beautiful in one language makes it ugly in the other.

2020 Ruined My Novel! 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Forum Room. The year 2020 was a giant curveball for the entire world. Everyone was affected in one way or another. What about authors? Our panelists will discuss what changes they had to make to their 2020 work-in-progress to accommodate all the weird things that were happening in the real world. In my case, I had a novel come out, Immunity Index, which I wrote before 2020, and it happened to feature a coronavirus epidemic.

In all, about 500 activities are scheduled for the convention, a little fewer than usual, but these are unusual times, and the convention committee has had to struggle mightily with forces beyond its control. I’m looking forward to meeting old friends, making new friends, and having fun with thousands of fellow fans of speculative fiction.

My votes for the 2021 Hugo Best Novelette Award

Six fine novelettes made it to the final ballot for this year’s Hugo Awards. Any one of them deserves to win, so how do I decide? Literary merit can be measured in many ways, such as technical excellence or imaginative leaps. I’ll rank them according to my opinion of their daring. Which one took the biggest risks?

6. “Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super” by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2020) Superheros are feared and hated — by themselves and by the public at large — for their poorly controlled powers. Emotions in the story are carefully depicted. This novelette excels in technical excellence.

5. “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2020) What happens after Paradise Lost by Milton? The fallen angels become prey in a fast-moving murder mystery. An impressive imaginative leap.

4. “Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com) A woman finds herself caught in a web of her own lies. Genuinely creepy horror. Both technical excellence and an imaginative leap are at work here.

3. “Monster” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2020) A medical researcher looks for a friend, and the search takes a terrible turn. People are not who they seem to be in this powerful story of betrayal. Technical excellence and a daring plot twist.

2. “The Pill” by Meg Elison (from Big Girl, PM Press) A pill can cure obesity, and people rush to take it despite its “acceptable” casualties. A daring story that dissects our current society with a pitiless scalpel, exposing how deep our prejudices reach and how much pain they cause. This story might change the way you think.

1. “Helicopter Story” by Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020) Without a doubt, given the intense negative reaction to the story on many fronts at its initial publication, this story took the most risks. “To be yourself well is the wholest and best feeling that anything has ever felt,” the story says, but, “We are propelled by disaster.”

My votes for the 2021 Hugo Best Short Story Award

The Hugo Awards will be presented at Discon III, the 79th World Science Fiction Convention, in Washington, DC, from December 15 to 19. I plan to be there. As a Worldcon member, I get to vote on the Hugos.

Here’s my ballot for the short stories. Every single one of these stories is worth reading, and choosing the winner is tough. Is a six-way tie possible? I guess not. I have to rank them for voting, and I know other voters have made very different choices, and I can’t fault them.

Note that, at least in my opinion, most of the short stories this year have a bit of a gentle, sweet tone. I suspect that’s just coincidence, but I don’t mind. Lately real life has been rough and bitter for all of us.

6. “Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020). An naive pair of life forms made of metal encounter a stronger, evil metal life form in a story that evokes the fairy-tale style of “Hansel and Gretel” and updates its substance.

5. “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse” by Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020) A woman gives birth in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Well-paced and vivid.

4. “The Mermaid Astronaut” by Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020). A mermaid wants to travel to the stars, and she does, then discovers the price. Although quiet and sweet, the narration is compelling.

3. “Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com). A woman sets up a free library, and one of the borrowers leaves strange and wonderful gifts. As so often with her stories, it’s at once gentle, sweet, and terrifying.

2. “Open House on Haunted Hill” by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. David Steffen). A haunted house wants a family and will do everything it can to make those people happy. Sweet without being sentimental.

1. “A Guide for Working Breeds” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan (Solaris)). Two robots with mismatched personalities find ways to help each other. This is my top choice because of its humor, the strong voices of its protagonists, the oblique but effective way it tells the story, ending on a sweet note, and because I’m a fan of Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

Two new articles on my website

I’ve posted two new articles here on my website.

The Highest Mile: In Spain, the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, has been an important pilgrimage route since medieval times to venerate the relics of St. James. It’s not one route, but several, and pilgrims can walk directly from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela, although few do. I hiked the route in the Guadarrama Mountains up to the Fuenfría Pass between Madrid and Segovia, where I found a solitary but not spiritually quiet meadow.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel decree: As a Spanish-to-English translator, one of my specialties is historic Spanish, and a few years back, I translated a document from 1491 signed by the King and Queen of Spain for an auction house. By itself, the decree is a minor matter about ownership of a farm, but it illustrates a crucial historic moment.

I received this poem as a gift

In exchange for a couple of houseplants, a friend gave me this poem, drawn from real life.

Fartin’ ‘n Gold Pants at the Dollar Tree

by Michael Ryan Chandler

Is it a frog?
Did someone step on a duck?
Did someone pop a lunch sack?
Fartin’ ‘n gold pants at the Dollar Tree.

Did a sewer line back up?
Did someone forget to wash?
Did a mouse die under the cans?
Fartin’ ‘n gold pants at the Dollar Tree.

Was it a burrito you ate?
Was it bad broccoli?
Was it a sandwich full of hate?
Fartin’ ‘n gold pants at the Dollar Tree.

I’m sympathetic to folks with gastritis
with pants touched by Midas.
But a mighty gastritis done got hold’a you.

I guess I should’a known.
I was feeling so alone,
all alone in an empty old store
when from across the way what did I hear?

It sounded like a flock of geese.
It sounded like the end of the world.
At first I was confused.
At first I felt fear.

Then I saw your gold rump
shakin’ and quakin’
calling out.

People say express yourself
and I believe that to be true,
but honey, please find another way.

Maybe change your diet.
Maybe go to France.
I heard they don’t fart there.

Whatever you do
when you’re at the Dollar Tree
please don’t fart in gold pants.