Frankly, last years' nominees in the short story category were disappointing. Saying that they were (as a group) weak, is an understatement. I was so annoyed that I made time to read stories and I nominated in this category this year. (One of my nominees made the final ballot.)
I'm pleased to say that this years' group of nominees are more readable.
"The House Beyond Your Sky", Benjamin Rosenbaum (Strange Horizons Sep 2006)
A powerful yet compassionate priest called Matthias has a library containing worlds such as our own. He is building a bubble universe behind his house. An ancient one wants to become ubiquitous in Matthias's new universe. Matthias hides his keys.
I found this story difficult to get into, but it was something different.
"Eight Episodes", Robert Reed (Asimov's Jun 2006)
A unheralded TV series called Invasion of a Small World debuts. It has unglamorous characters and sloppy dialog. The series is cancelled after the fifth episode. But months later, the final three episodes create a buzz by showing planetary vistas and a Paleozoic ecosystem. Who created this series?
This story may present a more realistic view of life in the wide universe, but I found its outlook a bit discouraging.
"Kin", Bruce McAllister (Asimov's Feb 2006)
In an overpopulated California of the future, a twelve-year old boy wants a man killed because he is going to kill his sister. A dangerous alien, called an Antalou, answers the boy's note. The boy understands the alien better than either imagined.
This story has a way to make a bureaucrat think, plus a nice outcome for the boy.
"How to Talk to Girls at Parties", Neil Gaiman (Fragile Things)
Two English teenage boys head off to a party, but forget to bring the directions. They find a party, but it's a different party entirely, and the beautiful girls at the party are quite different indeed.
A charming, well-told story. I read this story only this month.
"Impossible Dreams", Tim Pratt (Asimov's Jul 2006)
Pete discovers a video store from a parallel universe which rents DVDs of movies that were lost in our world or were never actually filmed. Paying for and trying to play a DVD from another universe complicates things. Pete befriends the store clerk who shares his love of movies.
An enjoyable story that I wish could be true. This is the story I nominated. It was a close call for me between "Impossible Dreams" and "How to Talk to Girls at Parties".
Amy's Ballot for Best Short Story:
1. "Impossible Dreams", Tim Pratt
2. "How to Talk to Girls at Parties", Neil Gaiman
3. "Kin", Bruce McAllister
4. "Eight Episodes", Robert Reed
5. "The House Beyond Your Sky", Benjamin Rosenbaum