This week's story recommendation is "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" by Eugie Foster, a novelette from the January/February 2009 issue of Interzone, reprinted here in the August 2009 issue of Apex Magazine. This is Foster's second SROTW, joining Paolo Bacigalupi, Catherynne M. Valente, Aliette de Bodard, and Leah Bobet as two-time recommendees. Perhaps even more significantly, "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" was nominated last week for the Nebula Award.
"Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" is set in a world whose residents don a different mask each morning, abandoning their individual personalities (a concept utterly foreign to them) in favor of the role represented by that day's mask. Perhaps inevitably, our viewpoint character(s) encounters a person who challenges this way of life.
A story with a premise like this can easily be swallowed by its own metaphors, but Foster manages to keep the tale moving forward, using elegant but not flashy prose. This is a fascinating, absorbing story, even if I have mixed feelings about the resolution, and I will certainly be including it in my Hugo Award ballot.