The Door to a Pink Universe judge, Nisi Shawl, comments on how the winning and honorable mention works reflect and amplify Octavia Butler’s themes and ideas.
Chameleons at Central by MB Austin
This is simply an awesomely well-written story. The author uses a convincing voice to depict a wealth of telling sensory details. The situation is entirely believable and conveyed without a fuss, making its implications that much more matter-of-fact and thereby greatly increasing their impact. Body-switching is a very Butlerian trope, and the idea of human experience as a valuable commodity in the interstellar economy also appears in the Lilith’s Brood series. “Chameleons at Central” is a clever and arresting take on a classic science fictional idea.
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Strange Bedfellows by Steven Arntson
Written in a deceptively casual tone, “Strange Bedfellows” gets a good bit of its sneaky punch by drawing on the powerful, current day, real-life problems of young black males in the school-to-prison pipeline. It extrapolates its ironic near-future scenario based on the coming together of budgetary concerns and the laissez faire treatment of prisoners. Besides its focus on the class and race issues inherent in its milieu, this story actually includes the presence of Butler’s novel The Parable of the Sower. It’s an amazing read.
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Voice of Gravaar by Geetanjali Dighe
This grim yet hopeful story gripped my interest from its beginning and didn’t let me go till long past its end. The theme of negotiation is an essential one in the work of Octavia E. Butler, and the questioning note on which this story concludes invokes Butler’s ambivalent attitude towards hierarchy and the notion of anyone involved in conflict claiming indisputable triumph over an opponent. A strong and resourceful heroine, a harrowing situation, a convincingly evoked future-this winning story has it all.
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Ascent by Lexi Keeler
The result of unchecked climate change is the primary catastrophe “Ascent” addresses, but Butlerian themes of racial and economic injustice are also unmistakably important in this moving story. Reading it made me want to know more about the all-too-likely world depicted within its pages and the lives and further adventures of its vividly drawn characters.
Fact Checker by Steven Morrison
A paean to the liberating qualities of libraries, of the written word to create and preserve cultural riches, this story reminds readers that no treasure is without its despoilers. “Fact Checker’s” heroine, Zinnia One, is a soldier fighting a war against life’s dissolution with the Butlerian weapons of hope and truth. For her, facts blossom like flowers; for me, this story blossomed like a garden basking in the joyful sun of discovery, watered by wonder.
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The Flood by Shelby Handler
This poetic lament for the loss of the past is a fantasy wrapped around a core of hard facts. The nameless, ghostly narrator of “The Flood” excoriates wealthy gentrifiers for ignoring the pillaging of the material history of Seattle’s Central District. Expressing Butlerian distaste for modern and ongoing economic and ethnic displacement, the strong, effective words of the story’s final paragraph predict harsh penalties for those who disregard the neighborhood’s heart and soul.
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Skint and the SootyCowAGate by Andree Sterne
Creatively employing nonstandard speech patterns, “Skint & the SootyCowAGate” describes a dystopic future where the wealthy have unlimited access to library resources while the poor huddle in parking garages, thus invoking Butler’s distrust of widening class disparities. This is an unusually voiced story of an outsider’s longing for inaccessible, even unimaginable, riches--and his determination to one day possess them. It’s both sad and funny.
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What Lies Beneath by Kimberly Christensen
Wicked humor and deeply satisfying insights into the foibles of human nature mark this story as one to be enjoyed by readers fond of snark. And truth. A bit further into the future we may all well be trying on mandated personas like the characters in “What Lies Beneath,” and thankful for the help of someone such as the narrator, Natalia, whose cheerfulness lures readers on to strange and interesting frontiers of social interaction.
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