I was late to the party on this one. The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window was already a Nebula Award finalist by the time I read it, and I suspect it will soon be a Hugo finalist as well. But it's too good not to recommend, albeit belatedly. This is Rachel Swirsky's third Story Recommendation of the Week, joining Aliette de Bodard as the only authors to receive three SROTWs.
Published in the Summer 2010 issue of Subterranean Online, "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window" is a fantasy novella, with elements of SF since it takes us far into the future (or a future).
"The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window" begins with the death of the title character, Naeva, a powerful sorceress. As she dies, she consents to have her spirit captured so she can be summoned after death, a decision made from misguided loyalty to her queen.
At first, Naeva is a pawn in a struggle between the queen and a potential successor. But the ages begin to pass, and Naeva is subject to summoning by an ever stranger succession of future generations. Naeva does not take well to being an ancient oracle, and many of those who summon her come to regret it. Naeva has contempt for most of the futures she glimpses, sometimes for good reason and sometimes due to her own prejudices. For example, she is absolutely unable to accept future societies where men are permitted to practice magic.
Finally, she is summoned by a very advanced future society attempting to catalogue all past knowledge. Even though Naeva is primitive by their standards, she remains a powerful sorceress with a force of will that may prove too much for the future.
It is difficult to extend a story over such a large span of time and keep the reader engaged, but Swirsky manages it admirably. Her writing is compelling throughout, and Naeva is a fascinating character. The thread of Naeva's story pulls you along despite the necessarily episodic story framework.
I read several excellent novellas from 2010 -- including strong work from such outstanding authors as Paolo Bacigalupi, Ted Chiang, George R.R. Martin, Paul Park, and Robert Reed -- but "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window" is my favorite of them all.