2020 Recommended SFF List

Best Short Story

"The Best Horses Are Found In the Sea, and Other Horse Tales To Emerge Since the Rise," Beth Cato, Daily Science Fiction 2/14/20. (Beth Cato writes the loveliest, most lyrical flash stories, and this is another one.)

"Cruel Sisters," Marie Brennan, Daily Science Fiction 3/10/20. (A creepy, atmospheric fairy tale retelling.)

"Little Free Library," Naomi Kritzer, Tor.com 4/8/20. (Meigan constructs her library, stocks it with books…and gets some unexpected gifts in return from an unseen reader. On first pass, the ending may seem kind of odd, but I read the story again and it became just right. This was a delight.)

“We Speak With the Raven Men,” Alexis Ann Hunter, Daily Science Fiction 5/22/20 (This is a memorable little story, that has elements of horror, fantasy and fable.)

(The next five stories are from the excellent anthology Made To Order: Robots and Revolution, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Almost all of these stories ranged from good to very good, and even the one I didn’t care for I could see a lot of people loving. If there was a Best Anthology Hugo, I’d nominate this in a hot minute.)

“Test 4 Echo,” Peter Watts. This has Watts’ trademark hard science, a sympathetic central character, and a bleak, depressing ending. The ending is a little more bleak and depressing than usual, even for him.

“Bigger Fish,” Sarah Pinsker. This has a (slightly abrupt) twist ending that is a very literal, very robotic and more than a little frightening–once you think about it–interpretation of Asimov’s First Law.

“Dancing With Death,” John Chu. This author is clearly a figure skating fan, which tickled me to no end, combining robots with ice dancing (as well as a minor Chinese god).

“Chiaroscuro in Red,” Suzanne Palmer. One of the longer stories in the book (in fact, I think it might qualify as a novelette, although I don’t have an ebook to check the word count), this is a down to earth, Everyman sort of tale about a college kid whose parents buy him an aging factory robot, and he ends up rescuing said robot.

“A Glossary of Radicalization,” Brooke Bolander. The final story in the book, this has Bolander’s trademark gritty setting and seething rage.

Best Novella

Finna, Nino Cipri (4 of 5 stars; full review here). (Capitalism vs. the multiverse, with a couple of hapless big-box employees caught between the two.)

Best Novel

The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (5 of 5 stars; full review here). (Jemisin is one of the best writers in SFF today, and she proves it again here. This is a very different book from the Broken Earth trilogy, but she tackles the soul of New York City, gentrification, colonization and Lovecraft with the same thoughtfulness and seriousness.)

Light of Impossible Stars, Gareth L. Powell (5 of 5 stars; full review here). (This is the most satisfying conclusion to the Embers of War trilogy. This crackling good read combines grand space opera with the intimate tale of a found family who chooses to stand up for what's right and earns a second chance.)

Network Effect, Martha Wells (5 of 5 stars; full review here). (Murderbot is one of the most memorable characters of recent years, and this full-length novel is a delight.)

Shorefall, Robert Jackson Bennett (5 of 5 stars; full review here). (This is the second book in the Founders series, but it stands well on its own. A new, chilling threat is revealed, the stakes are elevated, and there are a couple of game-changing plot twists.)

The Last Emperox, John Scalzi (4 of 5 stars; full review here). (This is the final book of the Interdependency Saga, and it's the best. The characterizations are better, and the story comes to a satisfying end.)

Lodestar (Best Young Adult SFF Not-A-Hugo)

Honor Lost, Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre (5 of 5 stars; full review here) (This final book in the Honors trilogy wraps everything up, and all the plot/character threads in the two previous books are brought home. The last battle was cinematic in its scope.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Season 5, Netflix. (This final season wraps everything up, and boasts richly layered characters and great payoffs. I think it belongs in the Long Form category--which we already know is going to be pretty thin this year, unless a whole bunch of movies come out in November and December--so that's where I'm going to put it.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Star Trek: Picard, Season 1, CBS All Access. (Now that the first season has finished, I must say I was a bit disappointed with the ending--there were a few too many plot holes. However, episode 6, "The Impossible Box,"  episode 8, "Broken Pieces," episode 7, "Nepenthe," and episode 2, "Maps and Legends," are the highlights.)

What We Do In the Shadows, Season 2, Hulu. (This show is my kind of funny: character-based, wry and absurd. Standout episodes: ep 2, "Ghosts," which is equal parts funny, creepy and ewwwwww; ep 5, "Colin's Promotion," which proves that the energy vampire Colin Robinson, despite his dry, boring, dull, nitpicky nattering, is the most powerful and frightening of the bunch; and the finale, "Nouveau Theatre des Vampires," where Guillermo reveals his vampire-slaying heritage and lays waste to the neighborhood.)

Best Series

Embers of War, Gareth L. Powell. (See my review of Light of Impossible Stars above.)

The Honors, Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre (See my review of Honor Lost above.)

The Interdependency Saga, John Scalzi (See my review of The Last Emperox above.)

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